Top US diplomat Blinken designates many countries including Russia as "countries of particular concern" who he says engaged in severe violations of religious freedom, but takes no action against India, seen by Washington as a key emerging ally.

"The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses," says Blinken. (Reuters Archive)

The United States has designated China, Iran and Russia, among others, as countries of particular concern under the Religious Freedom Act over severe violations, but took no action against India. 

"Around the world, governments and non-state actors harass, threaten, jail, and even kill individuals on account of their beliefs," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday in a statement.

"The United States will not stand by in the face of these abuses."

He added that Washington would welcome meeting with all governments to outline concrete steps for removal from the lists.

Algeria, the Central African Republic, Comoros and Vietnam were placed on the watch list. 

Several groups, including the Kremlin-aligned Wagner Group, a private paramilitary organisation active in Syria, Africa and Ukraine, were also designated as entities of particular concern. 

Violations of religious freedom "sow division, undermine economic security and threaten political stability and peace," Blinken said.

Blinken kept on the blacklist all Countries of Particular Concern from 2021 — Eritrea, Iran, Myanmar, North Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

US added Cuba, Nicaragua and Russia's Wagner mercenary group to a blacklist on international religious freedom, opening the path to potential sanctions.

Cuba and Nicaragua were both newly designated as "Countries of Particular Concern" under the annual determinations, meaning that the two leftist Latin American states — already under US sanctions —could face further measures.

READ MORE: UN begins probe into alleged rights violations in Nicaragua

No action against India, warning to Vietnam

As expected, Blinken took no action against India, seen by the United States as a key emerging ally against China.

The decision ignores a recommendation by the autonomous US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) which said that the treatment of minorities was "significantly " worsening under Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Hindu nationalist government.

India had already voiced anger over the State Department's annual report on religious freedom, which documented incendiary comments by Indian officials and accounts of discrimination against Muslims and Christians.

"The @StateDept's failure to designate #India a CPC [country of particular concern] is inexplicable given their own reporting of the country's religious freedom violations. Their documentation shows that India's violations are systematic, ongoing, & egregious," USCIRF said on Friday. 

READ MORE: The role of the West in the plight of India’s Muslims

CAR, Vietnam on watchlist  

The US Religious Freedom Act of 1998 requires the president — who assigns the function to the secretary of State — to designate as countries of particular concern states that are deemed to violate religious freedom on a systematic and ongoing basis.

Blinken added the Central African Republic or CAR to a watchlist, meaning that it will be designated among Countries of Particular Concern without progress. 

Also newly put on the watchlist was Vietnam.

Rights activists have long pushed the United States to designate Vietnam over the communist government's treatment of Buddhist and other religious groups but successive US administrations have been building ties with the former US adversary.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies