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S Jaishankar to meet Mike Pompeo amids stinging international criticism over CAA

The Ministry of External Affairs had dismissed the comments by USCIRF as one based on lack of knowledge about the law and prejudiced

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar travels to Washington DC,US,  for the Indo-US 2+2 dialogue on Wednesday, India is expecting questions in the course of the conversation on the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA).

The Defence and Foreign ministers will engage with their US counterparts on issues ranging from operationalisation of COMCASA (Communications Compatibility and Security Agreement), defence cooperation and regional security, Jaishankar is expected to clarify the government’s position to his American counterpart Mike Pompeo when the two meet for a separate half-an-hour session at 9.15pm.

S Jaishankar is likely to brief what has been said in Indian Parliament that the law doesn’t apply to Indian citizens and is only meant to give citizenship to persecuted minorities from three neighbouring countries.

However, with the constant reactions emerge from the US since the passage of the CAB in Lok Sabha, some suggest that this may not be the end of the conversation over CAA. A source also suggested that clubbed with questions regarding continued restrictions in Kashmir, questions at the international stage are bound to be asked on the overall situation in India.

On December 14, US ambassador at large for international religious freedom Sam Brownback had tweeted: “One of India’s great strengths is its Constitution. As a democratic nation, we respect India’s institutions, but are concerned about the implications of the CAB. We hope the government will observe by its constitutional commitments, including on religious freedom.”

The US State Department’s Bureau of Central and South Asia retweeted Brownback’s comment. Meanwhile, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on December 10 had tweeted “Religious principles is central to the foundations of both India and the US and is one of our core shared values. Any religious test for citizenship undermines this most basic democratic tenet.”

In fact, the Congressional committee had taken a very stern view of the proposed legislation on October 22 itself during a discussion on human rights in South Asia, which focussed heavily on Kashmir. The chair had made Assistant Secretary of State Alice Wells condemn any such move by the Indian government that had “exclusionary provisions” like the CAA that leaves out Muslims in particular.

However, the most scathing statement, has come from the independent but influential body — the US Commission on International Religious Freedom — which recommended that the US government impose sanctions on Home Minister Amit Shah and other leaders if the bill passes Parliament. Their statement was put out right after the bill sailed through Lok Sabha.

The Ministry of External Affairs had dismissed the comments by USCIRF as one based on lack of knowledge about the law and prejudiced.

The US may be the only nation to have overtly expressed concerns and indicated action. However, sources suggest that there are at least two other P5 countries of the UNSC that are keeping a close eye on the developments as they unfold with large-scale protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act right from Northeast region to the rest of India with students taking to the streets. The issue is likely to crop up in more conversations depending on what reassurances emerge from the government.

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