New Delhi: Just days after his name cropped up in the Congressional hearing on ‘Human Rights in South Asia’, in which US lawmakers were critical of India’s move to scrap Article 370 in J&K and Assam’s NRC exercise, an American diplomat has landed in the country.
The US Ambassador at large for Religious Freedom, Samuel D. Brownback, is leading a delegation that met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala Sunday. This is Brownback’s second visit to the Himachal hill town this year. He had also called on the Buddhist spiritual leader in March.
At the Congressional hearing on 23 October, doubts were raised on whether Brownback would be granted entry into the country. Robert Destro, assistant secretary of state looking after Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labour, had said Brownback was expected to “travel to India this week, provided he gets a visa”. Destro was speaking on the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.
Indian-origin Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal had also chipped in, saying if Brownback did not get a visa, there would be a whole new level of engagement with India.
Brownback is also expected to travel to Nepal and Thailand.
The American diplomat had earlier this month said he was looking into the NRC issue in Assam and the situation in Kashmir and wanted to know more about them before raising it “in a constructive way”.
Brownback has also slammed Pakistan for minority prosecution. At a UN Security Council meeting in August, he had said, “In Pakistan, religious minorities continue to suffer from persecution, either at the hands of non-state actors or through discriminatory laws and practices.”
Indian diplomatic sources told ThePrint that a number of US lawmakers visit India every year just like Indian MPs visit US. They said that there was no restriction on any US lawmaker from traveling to India and any fears otherwise was unwarranted.
Delegation attends 1st international Tibetan conference
The delegation led by Brownback reached Dharamsala Sunday at the special invitation of Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) president Dr Lobsang Sangay. The diplomat was the official chief guest at the First International Conference on Tibetan Performing Arts and the 60th-anniversary celebrations of Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts (TIPA).
According to a statement released by CTA, the chief purpose of the visit was to send a clear message to the world, particularly China that, “the United States government supports the Tibetan people, the Dalai Lama and that the role of picking a successor to the Dalai Lama belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist system, the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders”.
“It does not belong to anybody else, not any government or any entity,” the statement added.
Brownback also met a group of survivors of religious persecution who had recently escaped from Chinese-controlled Tibet and had an hour-long interaction with them.
“We believe in religious freedom; the United States strongly supports religious freedom,” he said after the meeting. “Unfortunately, Tibetans aren’t allowed to practice their faith freely in Tibet and they have to get out to India and other places to practice their faith.”