India talks of its national interest, Pompeo religion

New Delhi: India on Wednesday told the US that it will go by its national interest while dealing with other countries, including with sanctions-hit Russia from whom New Delhi is procuring S 400 missile defence systems. This was conveyed by External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar to his American counterpart Mike Pompeo during an extensive bilateral meeting here. Pompeo, too, in his India policy speech at the India International Centre, struck a deviant note and spoke "strongly" in favour of religious freedom and asserted that the world is worse off when these rights are compromised.

‘‘India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let's stand up together for religious freedom for all, let's speak out strongly together in favour of those rights. For whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off," Pompeo said. "India is increasingly standing up on world stage and the US welcomes its assertiveness," Pompeo further said. He hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, saying they are leaders who aren't scared to take risks and the two countries are poised to do "incredible things together".

Pompeo’s remarks on religious rights assume significance as they come days after the US State Department, in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report released last week, alleged that mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018. Pompeo indicated in an interview to India Today magazine that India and the US will work past the recent differences that have cropped up between the two nations over trade. He told the group Editorial Director Raj Chengappa: ‘‘Friends can have differences. We should not focus on differences, I wish reporters talked about the enormous connection between the two nations.

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