US disappointed over Indian refusal to grant visas to US Commission on Religious Freedom

WASHINGTON: The United States expressed its disappointment over India’s refusal to grant visas to members of US Commission on International Religious Freedom which is charged with monitoring international religious freedom.

“We’re aware that visas were not issued by the Indian embassy to members of the United States Commission of International Religions Freedom commissioners who were planning to travel to India on the 4th of March, and we’re disappointed by this news,” he told a regular briefing.

He said the State Department is supportive of the commission and the important role they play in reviewing facts and circumstances of violations of religious freedom around the world.

He said President Obama’s message during his trip to India was clear and remains true and quoted him as saying that “Our nations are stronger when every person has the right to practice their faith how they choose, or to practice no faith at all, and to do so free of persecution and fear of discrimination.”

He said the US remained engaged in a number of discussions with the Indian Government about this and other issues with respect to religious freedom. “It’s not a topic of conversation we don’t have, and it’s not a topic of conversation that we’re afraid to have with our Indian counterparts.”

When asked to give his assessment about religious freedom in India, the spokesman said that every society is made stronger when people are free to worship or not worship at all, and that would apply in India as it does anywhere else around the world.

To a question, he repeated that the United States was disappointed by the decision by the Indian government not to grant visas to the US Commission. “We support the work of the commission. More critically, we support the idea behind the commission, which is about religious freedom, the freedom to worship or to not worship, and that’s a central, underpinning principle and tenet here.” APP