With a senior official from the US, apart from the UK, the European Union (EU) and the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), raising the issue of Amnesty India shutting down its operations, New Delhi on Thursday said that it expects other governments to “not condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity”.
Ministry of External Affairs’ official spokesperson Anurag Srivastava on Thursday said that the Union Home Ministry, which deals with FCRA-related issues and foreign funding of NGOs, has said that “NGOs are expected to adhere to all our laws, including in respect of foreign funding, just as they presumably would, in other countries including in the US, and in the European Union”.
He said, “We also expect that other governments would not condone contravention of Indian laws by any entity.”
Earlier on Thursday, a senior US State Department official told journalists in Washington DC that Amnesty International shutting down its operations in India, after its bank accounts were frozen, “has received attention at the highest levels” in the US government.
Asked about New Delhi’s action against Amnesty International, the official said, “We’ve been focused, we’ve been very, very closely following this issue, not just in the administration, but I know that our members of Congress have as well. It has received attention at the highest levels of our government. We look forward to a response, and a resolution to a situation that’s consistent with international principles and the rule of law.”
The US official, who spoke on condition of not being identified, said: “The US is committed to the health and vibrancy of civil society, in all countries but also especially India. We believe that the strength of civil society and the openness of society is the strength of India, and it’s something that is part of what powers our cooperation, our bilateral cooperation, and therefore we’re concerned about obstacles to the work of civil society, whether in India, or anywhere else in the world.”
Within hours of Amnesty International’s announcement on Tuesday that it has halted its India operations and let go of its staff members, alleging “witch-hunt” by the government, the European Union had become the first international agency to raise this issue through diplomatic channels.
The UK government also raised the issue through diplomatic channels, while USCIRF, a consultative body to the US Congress, expressed concern at the reports.
The Union Home Ministry has denied Amnesty’s allegations of “witch-hunt” and stated that it does not allow interference in domestic political debates by entities funded by foreign donations.
In a statement, Amnesty claimed that its bank accounts have been frozen, bringing its ongoing work to a halt.