US religious body disappointed at denial of Indian visas

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Washington, March 4 (IANS) The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), a bipartisan body that monitors religious freedom abroad, has expressed disappointment at the denial of visas for what it said was a long planned trip to India.

The goal of the Commission’s trip was to discuss and assess religious freedom conditions in India, it said.

“We are deeply disappointed by the Indian government’s denial, in effect, of these visas,” said Robert P. George, Chairman of USCIRF, in a statement.

“As a pluralistic, non-sectarian, and democratic state, and a close partner of the United States, India should have the confidence to allow our visit.”

“USCIRF has been able to travel to many countries, including those that are among the worst offenders of religious freedom, including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, China, and Burma,” George said.

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“One would expect that the Indian government would allow for more transparency than have these nations, and would welcome the opportunity to convey its views directly to USCIRF,” he said.

The USCIRF delegation was scheduled to leave on March 4 and had the support of the State Department and the US Embassy in New Delhi, it said.

“USCIRF will continue to pursue a visit to India, given the ongoing reports from religious communities, civil society groups, and NGOs that the conditions for religious freedom in India have been deteriorating since 2014,” George said.

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