Allow us to visit India: panel on religious freedom

The chair of a high-profile Congressional commission on religious freedom has asked the Indian government to reconsider its view to withhold permission for the commission members to visit the country to assess the state of religious tolerance.

In an interview with The Hindu , Katrina Lantos-Swett, Chairperson of the U.S. Congress-established Commission on Religious Freedom (USCIRF), said, “I would also say that we would really welcome the opportunity to travel to India and we’ve been saddened that until now India has not been yet ready to welcome a USCIRF delegation to come for a visit.”

Under her leadership and Congressional mandate, the USCIRF continues to produce an annual report on the state of religious freedom worldwide, which in years past had designated India as a “Tier II” or “watch-list” country.

Dr. Lantos-Swett’s comments are significant in the context of two recent occasions on which U.S. President Barack Obama has remarked upon the dangers of religious intolerance for India, a view that Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared to cognise in February, when he condemned religious-based violent acts in the country.

On those remarks by Mr. Obama, Dr. Lantos-Swett appeared to differ from State Department officials who suggested that the President did not specifically intend to critique India’s religious tolerance and that it was a general observation.

The Commissioner said that she did not believe that the recent meetings between Mr. Obama and Mr. Modi were any indication that U.S. concerns as a country regarding religious freedom issues in India had gone away, rather that the White House aspired to being able to “speak out about concerns that exist with respect to the robust protection of religious freedom” in India, even as the bilateral rapprochement deepens simultaneously.

The full interview is available on The Hindu ’s website at

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