The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has called for a congressional hearing after expressing disappointment over the US Department of State’s continuous failure to designate India as a “Country of Particular Concern (CPC)”. The commission stated this in response to the State Department’s list of the countries designated as CPCs.
In alignment with the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998, Secretary of State Antony Blinken has designated Burma, China, Cuba, North Korea, Eritrea, Iran, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan as Countries of Particular Concern due to severe violations of religious freedom.
Additionally, Blinken identified al-Shabab, Boko Haram, Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, the Houthis, ISIS-Sahel, ISIS-West Africa, al-Qa’ida affiliate Jamaat Nasr al-Islam wal-Muslimin, and the Taliban as “Entities of Particular Concern.”
USCIRF Chair Abraham Cooper and Vice Chair Frederick A Davie expressed concern about the State Department’s decision not to designate India as a Country of Particular Concern, calling for a public hearing on this issue. They cited reported religious freedom violations within India’s borders and increased transnational repression targeting religious minorities abroad.
Despite consistently sharing recommendations with the US Department of State and Congress, USCIRF officials stated their rejection of the decision to omit India as a CPC. The commission emphasized its commitment to ensuring the prioritization of religious freedom in US foreign policy and criticized the State Department for not following all their recommendations.
In response to the State Department’s actions, USCIRF urged Congress to convene a public hearing, highlighting India’s alleged transnational repression activities and religious freedom violations. The commission had previously met with Antony Blinken in December 2023 to reiterate its recommendations and released publications on India’s State-Level Anti-Conversion Laws and Religious Freedom.
The State Department placed Algeria, Azerbaijan, the Central African Republic (CAR), Comoros, and Vietnam on its Special Watch List (SWL), deviating from USCIRF’s 2023 Annual Report recommendations. The USCIRF suggested including Algeria, Azerbaijan, and CAR on the SWL, along with Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.