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USCIRF Urges Biden Administration To Designate India As A Country Of Concern For Religious Freedom

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) renews its call for the Biden administration to designate India as a "country of particular concern" under the US Religious Freedom Act.

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The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has renewed its call for the Biden administration to categorize India as a "country of particular concern" under the US Religious Freedom Act, pointing to alleged actions against religious minorities abroad. The independent federal government commission emphasized that recent attempts by the Indian government to suppress activists, journalists, and lawyers abroad pose a significant threat to religious freedom, as reported by Reuters. 

In a statement, USCIRF Commissioner Stephen Schneck expressed deep concern over the Indian government's purported involvement in the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada and an alleged plot to assassinate another Sikh activist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, in the United States. The Indian embassy in Washington has not provided an immediate response.

The sensitive nature of the issue is evident as federal prosecutors in Manhattan revealed an Indian national's collaboration with an unnamed Indian government employee in a plot to assassinate a New York City resident advocating for a sovereign Sikh state in northern India. Despite India's denial of involvement in the plot, the USCIRF emphasizes the need for the US Department of State to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern due to ongoing religious freedom violations.

This development unfolds against the backdrop of delicate relations between India and the Biden administration, striving to strengthen ties in the face of shared concerns about an assertive China. USCIRF has recommended the designation for India each year since 2020, invoking the 1998 US Religious Freedom Act, which offers a range of policy responses, including sanctions or waivers.

USCIRF Commissioner David Curry underscored the danger of India extending domestic repression to target religious minorities abroad, emphasizing the urgency of addressing this issue. India's foreign ministry had previously dismissed the recommendation in 2020, criticizing it as "biased and tendentious comments."

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