Pompeo Avoids Comment on India Citizenship Law in Minister Visit
Mike Pompeo, U.S. secretary of state, attends a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump and Boyko Borissov, Bulgaria’s prime minister, not pictured, at the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S. (Photographer: Michael Reynolds/EPA/Bloomberg)  

Pompeo Avoids Comment on India Citizenship Law in Minister Visit

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(Bloomberg) -- Secretary of State Michael Pompeo declined to offer a view on India’s controversial citizenship law following a meeting between U.S. and Indian officials despite making advocacy for religious freedom a key theme of his time as the top U.S. diplomat.

“We care deeply and always will about protecting minorities, protecting religious rights everywhere,” Pompeo told reporters at a news conference in Washington on Wednesday. “The United States will be consistent in the way that we respond to these issues not only in India but all across the world.”

Pompeo didn’t elaborate on how the U.S. would respond to India’s Citizenship Amendment Act, which was passed last week and bars undocumented Muslims from neighboring Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan from seeking citizenship while allowing migrants of other faiths to do so.

Protests against the law have spread across the nation.

A senior State Department official, who later briefed reporters on condition of anonymity, wouldn’t say whether the issue was raised during talks Wednesday involving Pompeo, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar and Defense Minister Rajnath Singh that were focused on bolstering security ties.

The U.S. sees India as a key partner in its Indo-Pacific strategy, which is aimed partly at countering the rise of China, and has been muted in its comments about the new law as well as the government’s move to scrap the autonomous status of Kashmir, India’s only Muslim-majority state. The restraint is notable given Pompeo’s focus on religious freedom throughout his tenure.

Speaking after Pompeo at the same news conference, Jaishankar defended the new law, saying “it is a measure which is designed to address the needs of religious minorities from certain countries.”

The senior State Department official who spoke to reporters also declined to offer the U.S. stance on the law, but referred to earlier comments by Sam Brownback, the ambassador at large for international religious freedom, who said the U.S. was concerned about the implications of the law.

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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