WASHINGTON India on Friday explained its denial of visas for a U.S. government body monitoring international religious freedom by saying the group had no business judging the situation in the country.
The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom said earlier that it had intended to send a delegation to India on Friday for a long-planned visit, but the nation had failed to issue the necessary visas.
A statement on the website of the Indian Embassy in Washington said the Indian constitution "guarantees fundamental rights to all its citizens including the right to freedom of religion."
It said there had been no change in policy with respect to visits from agencies like the USCIRF and added:
"We do not see the locus standi of a foreign entity like USCIRF to pass its judgment and comment on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights."
On Thursday, USCIRF Chairman Robert George said the agency was deeply disappointed by the effective denial of visas for the delegation.
George said the USCIRF had been able to travel to many countries, including some such as Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Myanmar that were among the worst offenders of religious freedom.
Last year the United States ran into problems arranging visits to India by the head of its office to combat human trafficking and its special envoy for gay rights, despite a much-heralded fresh start in ties between the two countries under Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Visiting India in January 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama made a plea for freedom of religion in a country with a history of strife between Hindus and minorities.
In its 2015 report, the bipartisan USCIRF said incidents of religiously motivated and communal violence in India had reportedly increased for three consecutive years.
The report said that since Modi's 2014 election win, religious minorities had been subject to derogatory comments by politicians linked to his Bharatiya Janata Party as well as numerous violent attacks and forced conversions by Hindu nationalist groups.
(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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