April 28, 2022 - 6:39 am

USCIRF Recommends To Designate India As 'Country Of Particular Concern'

     An annual report 2022, which was released by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), again recommended putting India on the “blacklist” as “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC), a practice that has been going on since 2020. While the recommendations of the USCIRF are not binding on the US government, the body had made a similar recommendation to the US government last year that was not accepted by the Biden administration. Meanwhile, India has in the past rejected the reports by USCIRF, and said that the American body on international religious freedom has chosen to be guided only by its biases on a matter on which it has no locus standi. 

    For 2022, based on religious freedom conditions in 2021, a total of 15 countries have been recommended for the CPC designation. They include India, Pakistan, Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Syria and Vietnam. Countries recommended for a SWL designation include Algeria, Cuba, Nicaragua, Azerbaijan, Central African Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan. The India chapter of the report noted that religious freedom conditions in India “significantly worsened”. During the year, the Indian government escalated its promotion and enforcement of policies—including those promoting a Hindu-nationalist agenda — that negatively affect Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Dalits, and other religious minorities. The government continued to systemise its ideological vision of a Hindu state at both the national and state levels through the use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country’s religious minorities.

    The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan body created by the International Religious Freedom Act, 1998 (IRFA) with a mandate to monitor religious freedom violations globally and make policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State, and the Congress. It is a congressionally created entity and not an NGO or advocacy organisation. It is led by nine part-time commissioners appointed by the President and the leadership of both political parties in the House and the Senate. IRFA requires the USCIRF to annually identify countries that merit a CPC designation. As per IRFA, CPCs are countries whose governments either engage in or tolerate “particularly severe violations” of religious freedom, which are defined as “systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion”.

    The other designation, for less serious violations, is Special Watch List (SWL).

    USCIRF has in recent years become critical of India and even deems the country as a majority-religion ruling state, with no concern about the human rights and Muslim minority communities. However, many are not acquainted with the driving forces behind the why US Federal commission maligning India in its reports. According to a recent report published by Disinfo lab, an independent OSINT based research organization, it was from 2013-14 USCIRF has been under the targeted lobbying influence of the Islamist group Indian American Muslim Council (IAMC), whose founder Shaik Ubaid was once enjoying a leading role at the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), which is the off-shoot organization of Jamaat-e-Islami (Pakistan), in the US.

    India may come under greater pressure this time, given its divergence from the American position on the Ukraine war and refusal to endorse U.S.-backed resolutions against Russia at the UN. While the USCIRF’s suggestion of targeted sanctions may be a non-starter, its other recommendation — that the “U.S. Congress should raise religious freedom issues in the U.S.-India bilateral relationship and highlight concerns through hearings, briefings, letters and congressional delegations” seems more likely to fructify. The real problem is the US-led West: It wants New Delhi by its side, but it is vehemently opposed to the idea of a strong and powerful India. It wants an ally against rising China, but more in the line of Ukraine vis-à-vis Putin’s Russia. To its misfortune, India isn’t Ukraine. And Modi definitely isn’t Zelenskyy.

Questions and Answers Questions and Answers

Question : How many countries have been recommended for the CPC designation in 2022?
Answers : 15
Question : What is the state level of the USCIRF?
Answers : The use of both existing and new laws and structural changes hostile to the country's religious minorities
Question : When was the International Religious Freedom Act created?
Answers : 1998
Question : How many parttime commissioners are in the USCIRF?
Answers : Nine
Question : What are CPCs defined as?
Answers : Systematic, ongoing, egregious violations of the internationally recognized right to freedom of religion
Question : What is the other designation for less serious violations of religious freedom?
Answers : Special Watch List
Question : What does USCIRF consider India as?
Answers : Majorityreligion ruling state
Question : Who maligned India in its reports?
Answers : US Federal commission
Question : How often does IRFA require the USCIRF to identify countries that merit a CPC designation?
Answers : Annually