The United States has once again ignored recommendation to blacklist India on religious freedom. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday released an annual index of designations regarding religious freedoms.
Blinked instead added Azerbaijan to the watchlist on religious freedom, following fears for Christian heritage after the country seized back an ethnic Armenian enclave.
The Secretary of State also maintained all 12 countries that had been on the previous year’s blacklist, including China, Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.
In the sole change, Blinken added Azerbaijan to a watchlist, meaning it will join the blacklist, which carries potential sanctions, without improvements.
Energy-rich Azerbaijan, a frequent US partner, sent troops on September 19 into Nagorno-Karabakh and quickly achieved the surrender of Armenian separatist forces who had controlled the region for three decades.
In a recent recommendation to the State Department, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom pointed to concerns for the preservation of Christian religious sites in Nagorno-Karabakh, where virtually the entire population of 100,000 ethnic Armenians has fled to Armenia.
The commission also voiced alarm over regulations on all religious practice in the Shiite Muslim-majority but largely secular country under strongman President IlhamAliyev, including a requirement that all religious groups be registered and their literature approved by an official body.
The commission, which is appointed by lawmakers but does not set US policy, was ignored by Blinken on another recommendation — blacklisting India.