Will the US tag India a ‘country of particular concern’?

Recommendation by USCIRF timed in anticipation of the State Department’s announcement about the CPC and Special Watch List (SWL) designations

USCIRFImage Courtesy:talentkas.com

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) pushed for the State Department to designate India as a “country of particular concern” or CPC, for alleged religious freedom violations, reported The Telegraph. According to the news report, the reiteration is significant as the US State Department will soon announce the CPC and Special Watch List (SWL) designations.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the US Congress to monitor, analyse and report on religious freedom abroad. It has listed Myanmar, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Vietnam as CPC, along with India. These were named after USCIRF’s 2020 assessment, which was timed in anticipation of the State Department’s announcement of the CPC and Special Watch List (SWL) designations in about a month’s time. The USCIRF released an extensive factsheet detailing violations specified under the International Religious Freedom Act that “if perpetrated or tolerated by a foreign government, should cause the state department to designate the country as a CPC or place it on the SWL,” stated the news report.

According to the state department website, “In those cases where the secretary of state designates a CPC, Congress is notified, and where non-economic policy options designed to bring about cessation of the particularly severe violations of religious freedom have reasonably been exhausted, an economic measure generally must be imposed.”

India had been recommended for CPC designation in September 2020 as well by the US Congress-constituted federal body, However, when the State Department made its announcement of nations that were designated CPC in December 2020, India was missing from the list. In May this year, for the second year running, the USCIRF’s annual report recommended that India be designated as a “country of particular concern” or CPC. According to the 2021 annual report, released by, Gayle Manchin, who heads the organisation, while 2020 was “challenging for most nations trying to balance public health concerns alongside the fundamental right to freedom of religion or belief” it has been recommended that the state department designate “Burma, China, Eritrea, Iran, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan,” which were already on the State Department’s 2020 list “as well as four others—India, Russia, Syria, and Vietnam,” as “countries of particular concern.” According to the  recommendations that the governments of these nations engage in or tolerate “systematic, ongoing, and egregious violations.”

The USCIRF factsheet on India mentions that in 2020 and early 2021, the government of India continued to implement policies that impacted the religious freedom of members of India’s Muslim, Christian, Sikh, Dalit and Adivasi communities. It also mentions the “discriminatory” Citizenship (Amendment) Act, anti-conversion laws, intermarriage restrictions and anti-cow slaughter laws in various states, saying these have contributed to a “climate of hate, intolerance and fear”; the use of social media to spread hate; and the use of laws like the UAPA to “silence or restrict individuals and NGOs from reporting on and combating religious persecution, and to restrict support for religious organisations and activities”.

However, according to TT, even though many of these issues were flagged in the state department’s own report on “international religious freedom” last year, it it did not designate India a CPC “given the other aspects of the bilateral relationship, particularly geo-strategic considerations and the role Washington envisages for New Delhi in its China-centric policy.” The report notes that India usually “dismisses USCIRF recommendations and criticism, questioning its locus standi to comment on India’s internal matters” and that governments, “including that of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, have denied visas to the USCIRF to visit India”.


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