NEW DELHI – U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said here on Wednesday that it was necessary to speak strongly in favour of freedom of religion. Delivering a major policy speech at the end of his visit to India, Mr. Pompeo emphasised the rule of law and importance of civil society that would allow Indians to “flourish”.
“India is the birthplace for four major world religions. Let’s stand up together for defence of religious freedom for all. Let’s speak up strongly together in favour of those rights. For whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off,” he said at the speech delivered at the India International Centre here.
He pointed out that both India and the U.S. had regard for ideas such as the rule of law and “respect for human dignity” as important for themselves. He referred to the common heritage of freedom struggle of both nations as an inspiration for both.
“India-U.S. relationship is based on solid foundation, rule of law and the importance of civil society. These ideals — they allow people to flourish. The Indian people believe in them and Americans believe in them as well,” said Mr. Pompeo, arguing that both countries were meant to protect fundamental rights that he described as “inalienable”.
The speech comes just days after the annual report of the State Department pointed out that the actions and inflammatory speeches by members of the BJP at the Centre and various States had led to undermining of rights of the religious minorities. Mr. Pompeo said he shared his vision with the Indian leadership during his conversations.
Mr. Pompeo had introduced and launched the report on religious freedom in the State Department and had described freedom of religion as a personal priority for himself. The report had pointed out that repeated mob attacks and lynching, however, did not draw high-level political condemnation.
In the policy speech on Wednesday, the Secretary of State referred to the Preamble of the Constitution and how the phrase “We the People” refer to the struggle that led to the creation of the modern Indian state.
He used President Eisenhower’s comments to show that India and the U.S. were separated by thousands of miles of land and ocean but had similarities of conviction and ideas about what democracy should be.