The US on Thursday said “we condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials”, joining the predominantly Muslim countries that have spoken out against the denigration of the Prophet by two now-axed BJP spokespersons.
State department spokesperson Ned Price had been asked about the “rise of Islamophobia” in India with particular reference to the comments of Nupur Sharma and Naveen Jindal, the protests they triggered, and the authorities’ demolition of a protester’s property.
“Well, this is something that we’ve condemned,” Price said without going into specifics.
“We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials, and we were glad to see that the party publicly condemned those comments. We regularly engage with the Indian government at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion or belief, and we encourage India to promote respect for human rights.”
Price indicated this was a subject the US raises with India during bilateral meetings.
“The secretary (of state) said when he was last in New Delhi last year that the Indian people and the American people — we believe in the same values: human dignity, human respect, equality of opportunity, and the freedom of religion or belief,” Price said.
“These are fundamental tenets, these are fundamental values within any democracy, and we speak up for them around the world.”
Early in June, secretary of state Antony Blinken had flagged “rising attacks on people and places of worship” in India at the release of the 2021 International Religious Freedom (IRF) report in Washington.
Referring to the report, Blinken said: “In India, the world’s largest democracy, and home to a great diversity of faiths, we’ve seen rising attacks on people and places of worship.”
Although the Biden administration has ignored the recommendation by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) to designate India as a “country of particular concern” where “the government engages in or tolerates ‘particularly severe’ violations of religious freedom”, it has been more vocal on the subject in recent months. The USCIRF had in April this year made the same recommendation for the third consecutive year.
Before his remarks of early June, Blinken had expressed similar concern on April 12 at the joint press availability that followed the 2+2 meeting with his Indian counterpart and the two defence ministers in Washington.
“We regularly engage with our Indian partners on these shared values, and to that end we’re monitoring some recent concerning developments in India, including a rise in human rights abuses by some government, police and prison officials,” he said.
India usually dismisses USCIRF reports but sought to counter Blinken’s remarks of June as an effort by US officials to engage in “vote-bank politics”. New Delhi also flagged racist attacks and gun violence in the US as issues of concern.