Trump plans to raise issue of religious freedom with PM Modi

Trump plans to raise issue of religious freedom with PM Modi during two-day visit to India

US President Donald Trump will raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a two-day visit to India next week, a senior administration official said.

Modi’s government has faced large scale protests at home and criticism abroad for enacting a citizenship law that is seen as discriminating against Muslims and has deepened concerns his administration in undermining India’s secular traditions.

That measure came months after the Indian government withdrew the special autonomy given to occupied Kashmir. It also jailed dozens and imposed a communications blackout.

Trump, who is due in India on Monday, will talk about the two countries’ shared traditions of democracy and religious freedom, the senior administration official said in a conference call on Friday ahead of the visit.

He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration, the official said.

Modi’s ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party denies any bias against the country’s 180 million Muslims.

It has strongly rebuffed foreign criticism, saying the changes in occupied Kashmir and the new citizenship law were internal matters. In recent months, New Delhi has clashed with Muslim majority countries such as Turkey and Malaysia after they criticized the government’s policies.

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Soon after winning a second term in office last year, Modi had spoken about his government’s priority of inclusive growth for everyone, including religious minorities, the administration official said.

And I think that the president will talk about these issues in his meetings with PM Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities, the official said.

Trump has faced criticism at home for imposing a travel ban on several Muslim countries, a move he has argued is necessary to guard against terrorism.

Four US senators wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this month, saying Modi’s steps in occupied Kashmir and the citizenship laws were troubling and threaten the rights of certain religious minorities and the secular character of the state.

The bipartisan group of Senators, including Lindsey Graham, Todd Young, Chris Van Hollen, and Dick Durbin, asked the State Department for information in 30 days about the number of political detainees in occupied Kashmir, restrictions on the internet and cell phone service, and access for foreign diplomats, journalists, and observers.

They also expressed concern over the crackdown on protesters opposing the citizenship law, which lays out a path to Indian nationality for six religious groups from neighboring countries including Hindus, Sikhs, and Christians, but not Muslims.