India escapes US watch checklist, Pak sanctions on non secular freedom points

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 9

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s intervention led to Pakistan escaping sanctions for lack of religious freedom and India stopped from being listed on a Special Watch List, said US Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, Samuel Brownback.

“There were several recommendations that the Secretary [Pomoeo] did not follow, and this was one of them,” he said about keeping India away from the Countries of Particular Concern (CPC) list.

The US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) had recommended that India be put in the CPC list because of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

Brownback said the US had privately discussed these issues with the Indian government at a high level, and will continue to get raised. Pompeo is “well aware” of the statute (CAA) and the issues associated with the Modi government. And as I said, he’s raised it at the highest levels, but just decided at this point in time not to place them on a CPC or a Special Watch List,” he said during a briefing on rollout of US action against religious freedom violators.

Though Brownback was critical of India, he did not get baited by a question posed by a Pakistani-origin journalist who wanted to know why Pakistan was on CPC and India was not.

Brownback conceded that in India, some of the violence was carried out by the government but a lot of the actions are by the government in Pakistan.  Also, Pakistan has half of the world’s people that are locked up for apostasy or blasphemy. 

“And we just had a really difficult webinar this morning on forced brides into China, and one of the source places is Pakistan religious minorities. Christians and Hindu women being marketed as concubines or forced brides into China because there’s not effective support, and then there’s discrimination against the religious minorities that make them more vulnerable,” he said.

And that doesn’t mean that India doesn’t have problems.  The CAA is a problem and so is the violence. “We’ll continue to raise those issues, but those are some of the basis as to why Pakistan continues to be on the CPC list and India is not.”

The CPC list besides Pakistan includes China, Myanmar, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Nigeria. The Special Watch List has Russia, Comoros, Cuba and Nicaragua.

Sudan and Uzbekistan have been taken out of the lists.

Waiver from sanctions has been given to Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan because “there were important national interests of the US requiring the exercise of the waiver authority”.

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