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Let's defend religious freedom for all: Mike Pompeo says on India visit


ANI Asia
In a significant statement, visiting United States Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said on Wednesday that people should stand up in defence of religious freedom for all and if there was a compromise on it, the world is worse off.
"India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let us stand up together in defence of religious freedom for all and let us speak out strongly together in favour of those rights, for whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off," he said at the India Policy Programme held here.
The top-ranking US official's remarks assume significance in the wake of a recent report by the US State Department on religious freedom in India that though India's Constitution guaranteed the right to religious freedom, "this history of religious freedom has come under attack in recent years with the growth of exclusionary extremist narratives."
The report stroked the controversy in India and the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) took strong exception to the findings in the report. The MEA asserted that no foreign country or entity has any locus standi to pronounce on the state of Indian citizens' constitutionally protected rights.
In his speech, Pompeo appreciated India's support to the United States on numerous fronts, including the global campaign of pressure and diplomacy with North Korea.
"You [India] supported the global campaign of pressure and diplomacy with North Korea to encourage chairman Kim 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's Economic and Social Council.
"Recently, India voted against giving United Nations observer status to a Palestinian NGO tied to terror group Shahed, because rewarding terror groups is just wrong and both India and American know that," Pompeo said.
Appreciating India efforts to move away from purchasing Iranian and Venezuelan oil imports, Pompeo said that Washington would do everything to ensure that it has adequate crude supplies.
"You [India] have made hard choices to cut off oil imports from Iran and move away from purchasing Venezuelan oil. We [the United States] know these decisions were not without cost. We are doing everything we can to ensure you have adequate crude imports. We appreciate your help in pushing these regimes (Iran and Venezuela) to behave like normal countries," he said.
In April, Washington had announced that no fresh sanction waivers will be issued for Iranian oil imports to eight countries, including India. Ever since the waivers have come to an end, the Indian oil companies are reportedly facing a tough time.
It may be noted that besides Iran, the Trump administration has imposed various sanctions on Venezuela, aimed at forcing Latin American country's interim President to transfer power to the nation's opposition leader and National Assembly President Juan Guaido.
Pompeo's speech touched upon a range of other issues, including India's contribution to clean energy, UN's recent listing of Masood Azhar as a global terrorist, and India's efforts to maintain long-lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The Secretary of State is on a three-day visit to India. Earlier in the day, Pompeo held talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
In a joint press conference with Jaishankar after the talks, Pompeo had said that India and the United States would look for ways to sort out issues pertaining to trade and the S400 missile deal between New Delhi and Moscow.
"When I think about the two issues (trade and S400), I think of them as real opportunities; things that I know we can work together and will provide a foundation for a relationship (between the two countries)," Pompeo said.

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First Published: Jun 26 2019 | 9:04 PM IST

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