US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has noted that there was a “robust debate” within India over the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019 (CAA) and that Washington honours Indian democracy.
Asked by a reporter about Washington’s reaction to the CAA, Pompeo said: “We honour Indian democracy as they have a robust debate inside of India on the issue that you raised, and the US will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues, not only in India but all across the world.
“We care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere.”
At a joint news conference attended by Pompeo, US Defence Secretary Mark Esper, Indian Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister after their 2+2 Strategic Dialogue in Washington on Wednesday, the reporter asked Jaishankar: “Why make religion a factor in deciding who gets fast-tracked for citizenship?”
Defending the CAA, Jaishankar explained: “If you had followed the debate on that particular legislation carefully, you would see that it is a measure which is designed to address the needs of persecuted religious minorities from certain countries.
“If you look at where – what those countries are, and therefore what the minorities are, perhaps you’d get – you’d understand why certain religions were identified in terms of categorising those who had come across.”
So far, President Donald Trump’s administration has not taken a stand on the CAA, although the US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) said last week that it was “deeply troubled” by it, adding that Washington should sanction Home Minister Amit Shah.
But the Commission does not have the power to sanction anyone or any government but can make recommendations that can be followed up by the government or Congress.
The CAA aims to give refuge and faster citizenship to give refuge to Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Parsis and Jains fleeing religious persecution from the officially Islamic Pakistan and Afghanistan and Muslim-majority Bangladesh.