NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India on Sunday rejected a U.S. State Department’s annual report on religious freedom that raised questions about the government’s inability to curb violent attacks on the country’s minority Muslims.
FILE PHOTO – Raveesh Kumar, spokesman for Indian Foreign Ministry, speaks during a media briefing in New Delhi, India, February 27, 2019. REUTERS/Anushree Fadnavis
Preparing for a visit by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday, India’s foreign ministry issued a stiff rejoinder to the U.S. criticism.
“India is proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a longstanding commitment to tolerance and inclusion,” Raveesh Kumar, the ministry’s spokesman, said in a statement.
The State Department report, released on Friday, said some senior officials from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) last year had made “inflammatory speeches” against religious minorities.
Kumar said India’s constitution guarantees fundamental rights and religious freedom of all citizens, including its minority communities. Muslims make up 14 percent of India’s 1.3 billion people.
“We see no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights,” Kumar said.
The U.S. State Department report examined attacks on minorities during 2018.
“Mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, especially Muslims, continued throughout the year amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef,” the report said.
It also noted reports by non-governmental organisations that the government sometimes failed to act on mob attacks on religious minorities, marginalised communities, and critics of the government.
While in New Delhi, Pompeo is expected to hold talks aimed at laying the ground for a meeting between U.S. President Donald Trump and Modi during a Group of 20 summit in Japan later next week.
(This story was refiled to fix grammar in quote in third paragraph)
Reporting by Mayank Bhardwaj; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore