Pompeo touches upon religious freedom, says ‘let’s stand up together’

NEW DELHI: Close on the heels of the standoff last week over a state department report on religious freedom in India, US secretary of state Michael Pompeo again touched upon the issue here and said the world would be worse off if religious rights were compromised.
“India is the birthplace of four major world religions,” Pompeo said, addressing a gathering of senior diplomats and foreign policy wonks.

“Let’s stand up together for religious freedom for all, let’s speak out strongly together in favour of those rights for whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off,” he added.

Responding to the latest Report on International Religious Freedom published by the US state department, India had said it saw no locus standi for a foreign entity to pronounce on the state of “our citizens’ constitutionally protected rights”.

The government had said India was proud of its secular credentials, its status as the largest democracy and a pluralistic society with a long-standing commitment to tolerance and inclusion. That though was probably the only sour note in the speech by Pompeo who lauded international cooperation between the two countries and called for “new age ambition” in ties.

Pompeo said the US was pleased to see that Jaish-e-Muhammed chief Masood Azhar had been banned by the UNSC sanctions committee. Recalling Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a joint initiative against terrorism, he said it was similar to US President Donald Trump’s call in Riyadh two years ago.

He said the US was aware that India’s decision to stop importing oil from Iran was not without cost and that the US would ensure that India didn’t face any crude shortage. Pompeo said the US was working to ensure that Iran and Venezuela behaved like normal countries.

India’s decision to stop oil imports from Iran, and also to move away from Venezuelan crude, was cited as examples of significant cooperation between India and the US despite “nagging misconceptions” about bilateral ties.

Pompeo appreciated India’s support to the US on numerous fronts, including the global campaign of pressure and diplomacy with North Korea. “You supported the global campaign of pressure and diplomacy with North Korea to encourage Chairman Kim Jong-un to go back to the bargaining table, and ultimately to achieve the final, fully verified denuclearisation of the Korean peninsula,” he said.

Pompeo also appreciated India’s decision to favour Israel’s decision objecting to granting consultative status to a Palestinian group at the UN. “Recently, India voted against giving UN observer status to a Palestinian NGO tied to terror group Shahed, because rewarding terror groups is just wrong and both India and America know that,” he said.

Source: The Times of India


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