US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has condemned the offensive comments against Holy Prophet (PBUH) by members of India’s ruling Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
Early this month, two senior members of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s party, Nupur Sharma and Naveen Kumar Jindal made disrespectful remarks about the Prophet (PBUH) that offended Muslims. After worldwide condemnation, the BJP distanced itself from their statements and suspended Sharma and Jindal.
The televised remarks made by Sharma against Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his youngest wife Aisha (RA) on May 26 set off diplomatic protests in Pakistan and wealthy Arab states that usually enjoy close relations with India.
Muslims took to the streets across Asia, including India, where protesters faced a crackdown by Indian authorities.
Clashes had broken out between Muslims and Hindus and, in some cases, between police and protesters in several areas.
According to Global Village Space’s report of June 13, police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh demolished the homes of several people over their alleged involvement in demonstrations. They also arrested more than 300 people in connection with the unrest.
During a press briefing on Thursday, Price said, “We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials and we were glad to see that the party publicly condemns those comments.”
When asked about the subsequent demolition of Muslims’ houses, Price said, “Well, this is something that we’ve condemned. We regularly engage with the Indian government at senior levels on human rights concerns including freedom of religion or belief and we encourage India to promote respect for human rights.”
The secretary added: “The Indian people and the American people, we believe in the same values: human dignity, human respect, equality of opportunity, and the freedom of religion or belief. These are fundamental tenets, these are fundamental values within any democracy, and we speak up for them around the world.”
When asked whether the US was taking any steps with regards to India and other Asian nations continuing to purchase oil from Russia against the backdrop of its offensive in Ukraine and consequent sanctions imposed by the West on Moscow, Price said, “We have had a number of discussions with our Indian partners, and the point that we have made is that every country is going to have a different relationship with Moscow.
“India’s relationship with Russia is one that developed over the course of decades, and it developed over the course of decades at a time when the United States wasn’t prepared or able to be a partner of choice for the Indian Government.”
“That has changed. This is a legacy of a bipartisan tradition now that has been the case for more than two decades. It goes back really to the Clinton administration, certainly to the George Bush administration, where the United States has sought a partnership with India, has sought to be a partner of choice for India, including when it comes to the security realm.”
“Now, this is not a partnership that we were able to build in the course of days, weeks, or months. I mentioned before that India’s relationship with Russia was built up over the course of many decades. As countries reorient their relationship with Moscow, as we have seen many of them do, this will be a gradual process,” he said.
The journalist asked him about progress in Washington’s ties with the new PML-N-led coalition government in Pakistan, to which Price said meetings had been held with the representatives of the new setup on multiple occasions.
He spoke about the meeting between Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in New York last month.
“Secretary Blinken had an opportunity to sit down with his Pakistani counterpart to meet him face-to-face in his position for the first time. It was a very good, constructive discussion regarding the full range of issues, including the issue of food security,” Price said, adding that the two sides also discussed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
He said, “Pakistan is a partner of ours, and we will look to ways to advance that partnership in a manner that serves our interest and our mutual interests as well.”