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Russia Accuses US of Attempting to Destabilize India During Lok Sabha Polls: Report

May 9, 2024

New Delhi: The US aims to destabilise India during the 2024 general election, the Russian foreign ministry has said after a US federal commission’s report criticised New Delhi for alleged violations of religious freedom.

RT news, a Russian government-owned news network, has reported that foreign ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova has said Washington lacks understanding of India’s national mentality and history and continues to make “unfounded accusations” about religious freedoms in India.

Zakharova called it disrespectful to India as a country and a State. “The reason [behind the US accusations] is to unbalance the internal political situation in India and complicate the general elections,” RT news quoted her as saying. The foreign ministry spokesperson added that Washington’s actions clearly constitute interference in India’s internal affairs.

This comes after the latest annual report by the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) criticised India for alleged violations of religious freedom. The commission also renewed its recommendation to the US Department of State to declare India a “Country of Particular Concern”.

The report has accused the ruling BJP of reinforcing “discriminatory” nationalist policies. It has also flagged the continued enforcement of the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, Foreign Contribution (Regulation) Act, Citizenship (Amendment) Act and anti-conversion and cow-slaughter laws. The enforcement of these laws, it has said, has resulted in arbitrary detention, monitoring and targeting of religious minorities and those advocating on their behalf.

“Both news media and nongovernmental organisations (NGOs) reporting on religious minorities were subjected to strict monitoring under FCRA regulations,” the report has said.

The Ministry of External Affairs has slammed the US commission for attempting to “interfere” in India’s electoral exercise and continuing to indulge in “propaganda” against the country.

Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson of the ministry, said last week that the USCIRF is known to be a “biased” entity with a political agenda. “The US Commission on International Religious Freedom is known as a biased organisation with a political agenda. They continue to publish their propaganda on India masquerading as part of an annual report.”

“We really have no expectation that the USCIRF will even seek to understand India’s diverse, pluralistic and democratic ethos,” Mr Jaiswal said. “Their efforts to interfere in the largest electoral exercise of the world will never succeed,” he added.

Moscow also trashed allegations of the involvement of an Indian official in a foiled plot to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. “According to the information we have, Washington has not yet provided any reliable evidence of the involvement of Indian citizens in the preparation of the murder of a certain GS Pannun. Speculation on this topic in the absence of evidence is unacceptable,” Zakharova said at the briefing.

The remarks came in connection with a report in The Washington Post that cited unnamed sources and named a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officer in connection with the alleged plot to kill Pannun. The report stated that India is trying to do the same as Russia and Saudi Arabia against its enemy.

“‘The Washington Post’, it seems to me, should use the term ‘repressive regime’ and everything you quoted in relation to Washington. It is difficult to imagine a more repressive regime than Washington, both in domestic and international affairs,” Zakharova said.

The External Affairs Ministry has rejected The Washington Post report, describing it as “unwarranted and unsubstantiated” imputation on a “serious matter” that is under investigation. Randhir Jaiswal, spokesperson for the ministry, termed the report “speculative and irresponsible”.

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