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Taking serious note of the communal strife in Gujarat, a US government advisory panel has suggested to the State Department for the first time to designate India as a country of 'particular concern', claiming that New Delhi has tolerated 'severe' violence against religious minorities.
According to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA) of 1998, other 'countries of particular concern' are Pakistan, Vietnam, Myanmar, China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, North Korea, Laos, Sudan and Turkmenistan.
Under the Act, countries found violating religious freedom can be considered by the US president for diplomatic or economic sanctions.
In Delhi, an external affairs ministry spokesperson sought to downplay the recommendation, saying reports of this nature were not expected to influence the positive trend of Indo-US relations.
"The US government fully understands the strength and resilience of India's dynamic democracy and the manner in which we have safeguarded our secularism and respect for religious diversity and freedom," the spokesperson said.
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