India Refused Visas to U.S. International Religious Freedom Organization

By Laurie Jones aka ljonesimages on Flickr [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

A scheduled visit to India by a U.S. Religious Freedom Organization was canceled after India would not grant them visas.

The government of India has rebutted visas to the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The team was to visit India on Friday with the help of U.S. embassy in New Delhi, but sources revealed the Indian government refused to offer the delegation visas.

The chairman of U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom expressed his disappointment in the Indian government. He said that; “We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas. As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit.”

The commission has previously worked in countries with tough religious inclinations such as Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, China, Myanmar and Vietnam. Thus, the India decision to deny then delegation visas came as a shock to them.

Robert George (chairman USCIRF) said: “One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than have these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF.”

The Indian government has not experienced a good relationship with the U.S. recently, and they have disagreed on some issues such as human trafficking and gay rights.

The Indian Embassy in Washington was reluctant to give a response to the visas query, and it referred the matter to the Indian government. But what could have triggered such a decision? According to a statement by a state department official, it could be attributed to President Barack Obama’s pledge for increased freedom of religion during his visit to New Delhi last year. India is a country with a long history of unending conflict between Hindus and minorities.

The commission report has indicated that India has experienced a continuous increase in matters regarding religiously motivated and communal violence in the last three years. The government has not been vibrant in its effort to protect minority religious groups as well as providing justice in a court of law.

Religious leaders and other NGOs have ascribed the increase in religious violence in India to the religiously divisive campaigns that were experienced in the country during its 2014 elections. Modi won the elections through the Bharatiya Janata Party, and more religious violence has been experienced since then where minority religions have been forced to convert into Hindu Nationalist groups.

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