US Commission on religious freedom

Afshain Afzal

NEW Delhi behaved courteously by merely confining to refusal of Indian visa to the members of United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). In the same regard, Indian Foreign Office has played diplomatically and did not offend Washington for its misdeed as New Delhi could have announced sending reciprocal fact-finding team to Washington to access grave violations of religious rights of American citizens and immigrants. It is on record that US has past history of grave violation of religious and human rights, not only against its own citizens but the people around the world including orthodox Christians, Davidians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Sikhs.
Reportedly, USCIRF team was tasked to investigate, negotiate and access the condition of religious freedom under the ruling government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a statement, Indian Foreign Office representative said that it does not see the need for allowing a foreign entity to pass judgment on the state of religious freedom in India. One wonders under which authority a commission of another country can be graded as fact-finding mission and without the approval of that country can be sent to that country on the grounds that discrimination of religious minorities have been reported.
If we recall, on account of 2002 riots in the Indian state of Gujarat that killed more than 200 people, mostly Muslims, Washington denied visa to then Chief Minister Narendra Modi to enter US. His visa of B-1/B-2 categories granted to him, were revoked on the grounds of foreign government official violating religious freedom. Ironically, Mr Modi, who was banned to travel to US under Section 212 (a) (2) (g) of Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) and International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) was invited to visit US as state guest in September 2014.
In is pertinent to mention here that the charges against Mr. Modi, Indian Supreme Court appointed a Special Investigation Team, which found no evidence and cleared him from all charges. One wonders for mere hidden self-interests Washington issued a waiver to a so called terrorist. In the past, US violated all rules and previous announcements and did not honour public opinion of American tax payers and pressure groups like US-based Collation Against Genocide (CAG), which drew attention to the Gujarat riots and pledged to continue ban of Mr Modi irrespective of his victory in the elections and becoming Prime Minister of India. The fact cannot be denied that when diplomatic and non-diplomatic interferences and pressures from Washington failed to defeat Mr Modi in Indian election, US President Barack Obama personally telephoned Mr Modi to congratulate and extent invitation to visit White House as a state guest.
As a matter of fact, all the countries of the world have to abide by the International Law, the Statutes and the Conventions that prevent them from interfering in the internal affairs of other sovereign countries. As far as the religious rights in India are concerned, an Indian constitution guarantees religious freedom to its entire citizen. The United Nations Charter clearly bans all countries and organizations from interference in the internal affairs of the other countries. Thus, Article 2 (7) states that the UN has no authority to interfere in matters which are within the domestic jurisdiction of any state. Again, Article 2 (4) of the Charter prohibits the threat or use of force and calls on all members to respect sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of other states.
It is a matter of concern that how can Washington interfere in others internal religious affairs when the First Amendment in US Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. It is now a high time to stop Washington and other countries from interfering in the internal affairs of other countries and allow democratic process to take its own course. The UN must ply its due role to ensure implementation of UN Charter and international Laws.
— The writer is a political analyst based in Islamabad.

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