US says some Indian officials support religious attacks

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The United States said Thursday that some Indian officials have supported attacks against religious minorities, in a rare if indirect criticism of the record of its emerging ally.

Unveiling an annual report on international religious freedom, Secretary of State Antony Blinken offered bleak assessments of several US adversaries including China, Iran and Myanmar.

But he said that elsewhere as well "the rights of religious minorities are under threat in communities around the world."

"In India, the world's largest democracy and home to a great diversity of faiths, we've seen rising attacks on people in places of worship," Blinken said.

Rashad Hussain, the US ambassador at large for international religious freedom, added: "In India, some officials are ignoring or even supporting rising attacks on people and places of worship."

In the report, the State Department pointed to laws restricting religious conversions, quoted accounts of discrimination against Muslims and Christians, and said that "politicians made inflammatory public remarks or social media posts about religious minorities."

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government has championed a series of measures that critics have called discriminatory.

India frequently bristles at foreign criticism of its record and has denounced the US Commission on International Religious Freedom, an autonomous government panel, which has repeatedly recommended that the State Department put India on a blacklist.

The State Department did not announce new designations Thursday and it is highly unlikely that it would take action against India, identified by successive US administrations as a key global partner in the face of a rising China.

The report also pointed to concerns in India's historic rival Pakistan, which is on the religious freedom blacklist.

Blinken said that at least 16 people were sentenced to death in Pakistan last year on accusations of blasphemy, although no one was executed.

Mere allegations of blaspheming Islam have set off violence in Pakistan and critics say that such charges are often used to abuse minorities.

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