Condemn Prophet remarks but welcome BJP action: US

The United States (US) has condemned the “offensive remarks” made by the now expelled or suspended Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) spokespersons on Prophet Muhammed, but also said that it was “glad” to see the ruling party condemn those remarks.

It has also, separately, placed India’s relationship with Russia in a historical context, emphasised the growing strategic engagement between the US and India in recent decades and America’s wish to be a “partner of choice” for India, and pointed out that this shift will be a gradual process.

Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price, in response to a question on “rising Islamophobia” in India, the comments on the Prophet and the subsequent protests, said, “This is something that we have condemned. We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials, and we were glad to see that the party publicly condemned those comments.”

Price added that the US continued to engage with India on issues of human rights on a consistent basis. “We regularly engage with the Indian Government at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion or belief, and we encourage India to promote respect for human rights.”

Referring to Secretary of State Antony J Blinken’s visit to India last year, Price said that the Secretary had underlined how Indians and Americans believe in the same values — human dignity, human respect, equality of opportunity, and the freedom of religion or belief. “These are fundamental tenets, these are fundamental values within any democracy, and we speak up for them around the world”.

The State Department’s comments come in the wake of both domestic developments in India — where the BJP suspended party spokesperson Nupur Sharma and expelled Delhi unit official Naveen Kumar Jindal over their remarks on the Prophet in wake of criticism by West Asian countries, but protests over the remarks have continued, as has criticism over the response by some state governments to the protests — and in the US — where segments within the State Department, civil society and the media have stepped up their criticism of India’s human rights record.