US President Donald Trump to raise issue of religious freedom during India trip: White House

Kusum Tewari

New Delhi: US President Donald Trump will raise the issue of religious freedom with Prime Minister
Narendra Modi during his visit to India next week, the White House stated on Friday claiming that the issue of religious freedom is “extremely important for the administration”.

“President Trump will talk about our shared tradition of democracy and religious freedom both in his public remarks and then certainly in private. He will raise these issues, particularly the religious freedom issue, which is extremely important to this administration,” a senior official told reporters in a conference call ahead of the two-day visit of Trump that will also witness presence of his family members and senior US Ministers.

However, sources here indicated to ET that India will await what exactly is raised by Trump.

“As I talked about, we do have this shared commitment to upholding our universal values, the rule of law. We have great respect for India’s democratic traditions and institutions, and we will continue to encourage India to uphold those traditions. And we are concerned with some of the issues that you have raised. And I think that the President will talk about these issues in his meetings with Prime Minister Modi and note that the world is looking to India to continue to uphold its democratic traditions, respect for religious minorities. Of course, it’s in the Indian Constitution — religious freedom, respect for religious minorities, and equal treatment of all religions in India,” the official said.

The official went on say, “In fact, India has a strong foundation of democracy, going back to the early days, right after Independence. India is a country rich in religious, linguistic, and cultural diversity. In fact, it’s the birthplace of four major world religions. Prime Minister Modi, in his first speech after winning the election last year, talked about how he would prioritize being inclusive of India’s religious minorities. And, certainly, the world looks to India to maintain religious liberty and equal treatment for all under the rule of law.”

Instead of mediation on the Kashmir issue the US President is expected to emphasise on the issue of bilateral approach. “I think what you’ll hear from the President is very much encouraging a reduction in tensions between India and Pakistan, encouraging the two countries to engage in bilateral dialogue with each other to resolve their differences. We continue to believe a core foundation of any successful dialogue between the two is based on continued momentum in Pakistan’s efforts to crack down on terrorists and extremists on its territory. So we continue to look for that. But I think the President will urge both countries to seek to maintain peace and stability along the line of control and refrain from actions or statements that could increase tensions in the region,” according to the official.

Among other issues, the President will focus on defense and security cooperation to both fight terrorism and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific. “The U.S. wants an India that is strong, with a capable military that supports peace, stability, and a rules-based order in the Indo-Pacific region…India is a pillar of our Indo-Pacific strategy, and we continue to work together to promote this vision of a free and open international system based on market economics, good governance, freedom of the seas and skies, and respect for sovereignty,” the above-mentioned official said.

With the President and the First Lady, there will be a 12-person official delegation. That will include:

Ambassador Ken Juster, the United States Ambassador to of India Secretary Wilbur Ross, of Commerce Department, Secretary Dan Brouillette, of the Energy Department, Mick Mulvaney, Assistant to the President and Acting Chief of Staff, National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien, Ivanka Trump, Assistant to the President and Advisor to the President, Jared Kushner, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the President, Stephen Miller, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor for Policy Dan Scavino, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor for Digital Strategy

Lindsay Reynolds, Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to the First Lady Robert Blair, Assistant to the President and Special Representative for International Telecommunication Policy and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff and Stephanie Grisham, Assistant to the President and Press Secretary and Director of Communications for the President and First Lady

Adam Boehler, Chief Executive Officer of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation, Ajit Pai, Chairman of the FCC, Lisa Curtis, Deputy Assistant to the President for South and Central Asian Affairs, Kash Patel, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Counterterrorism

Mike Passey, Director for India, National Security Council will also be part of the delegation.

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