Washington: Avoiding a direct
comment on a US body's move to put India on its 'watch list' for
religious freedom, the State Department has said that "freedom of
expression and religious freedom" were important to the US.
But a department
spokesman Friday could not say if Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
had talked about it during her visit to India last month.
"I can't say to
what degree it came up during the Secretary's conversations last
month, but clearly, this is an area which we think it obviously is,
across the globe, a source of potential stability," P J Cowley told
reporters Friday when asked about Clinton's impression of religious
freedom in India.
"And we believe
that those societies that practice significant tolerance will be
those that advance most significantly in the coming years."
"I think that,
obviously, we talk at the Department of State about many universal
principles. We've talked about them in a variety of contexts," he
said. "But certainly, freedom of expression and religious freedom we
think are hallmarks of stable, progressive societies in the 21st
century. It is obviously important to us."
slammed the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF)
for putting India on its 'watch list' for allegedly inadequate
response in protecting its religious minorities.
Pointing out that
India, a country of 1.1 billion people, is a multi-ethnic and
multi-religious society," an external affairs ministry spokesperson
had described the move as "regrettable."
In a statement in
Washington Wednesday, the USCIRF said India earned the 'watch list'
designation due to the "disturbing increase" in communal violence
against religious minorities - specifically Christians in Orissa in
2008 and Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 - and the largely inadequate
response from the Indian government to protect the rights of