Federal US panel seeks sanctions against Shah if CAB is passed

Federal US panel seeks sanctions against Shah if CAB is passed

Federal US panel seeks sanctions against Shah if CAB is passed

New Delhi, December 10

The US Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has proposed sanctions against Union Home Minister Amit Shah and other principal leadership if the Rajya Sabha also passes the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill (CAB).

“The CAB is a dangerous turn in the wrong direction; it runs counter to India’s rich history of secular pluralism and the Indian Constitution, which guarantees equality before the law regardless of faith,” noted the Commission in a release shortly after the Lok Sabha passed CAB around midnight.

USCIRF consists of appointees by US President Donald Trump and majority and minority leaders of both Houses of US Congress. As was the case with the Magnitsky Sanctions against Russia- and Hong Kong-related sanctions against China, its recommendations ran close to the US foreign policy. But they have also diverged. In cases such as Turkey’s incursion into Kurd-held areas in Syria, USCIRF’s dissent had no impact on US foreign policy.

The statement noted that CAB was “originally introduced” by Shah in the Lok Sabha and was “deeply troubled” by its “religion criterion”, a reference to the proposed exclusion of Muslim undocumented migrants from being granted citizenship. In this respect, the USCIRF said CAB “enshrines a pathway to citizenship for immigrants that specifically excludes Muslims, setting a legal criterion for citizenship based on religion”.

It feared that in conjunction with the ongoing National Register of Citizens (NRC) process in Assam and the nationwide NRC that “the Home Minister seeks to propose”, the Indian government is creating a religious test for Indian citizenship that would strip millions of Muslims of citizenship.

The Lok Sabha had first passed the CAB in January 2019, but due to protests, the government withdrew it before it could be voted on by the Rajya Sabha. The BJP included the passage of the CAB as part of its manifesto released ahead of its overwhelming electoral victory in May 2019.

The presence of Indian-American Arunima Bhargava as one of the USCIRF Commissioners is of little solace to New Delhi as she had spoken in favour of lifting all curbs in Kashmir Valley while testifying before the Tom Lantos Commission of the US Congress last month.

Aware of the slippery ground ahead, India has beefed up its lobbying at Capitol Hill by appointing a PR agency specialising in US Government affairs for three months at a retainership of $ 40,000 per month. In addition, the Indian posts in the US are reaching out to Indian-Americans sympathetic to New Delhi’s viewpoint in order to influence their respective Senators and Representatives.

Indian Ambassador to US Harsh Vardhan Shringla has been leading the outreach with extensive travel in the US. He recently met former US President George Bush in Texas, Governor of Massachusetts Charles Baker besides US Congressman Ron Wright, Congresswoman Dina Titus as part of a vigorous effort to put across India’s compulsions in Kashmir and explain the wider potential of Indo-US cooperation.

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Hitesh Jain

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