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Let's speak out strongly in favour of religious freedom, says US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

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New Delhi, June 26:US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday called for speaking "strongly" in favour of religious freedom rights and asserted that the world is worse off when they are compromised.

 Lets speak out strongly in favour of religious freedom, says Mike Pompeo in Delhi

His remarks assume significance as they come days after the State Department, in its annual 2018 International Religious Freedom Report released last week, alleged that mob attacks by violent extremist Hindu groups against minority communities, particularly Muslims, continued in India in 2018, amid rumours that victims had traded or killed cows for beef", evoking a sharp reaction from the ruling BJP which said it shows a clear bias against the Modi government.

"India is the birthplace of four major world religions. Let's stand up together for religious freedom for all, let's speak out strongly together in favour of those rights for whenever we do compromise those rights, the world is worse off," Pompeo said in his India policy speech at the India International Centre here.

Pompeo said,''India & US should see the world as it is and see each other for what we are- great democracies, global powers and good friends.''

He also said the US is pleased to see the UN designating JeM chief Masood Azhar a global terrorist. Recently India voted against Palestinian NGO that supported terrorism at the UN and showed rewarding terrorism is wrong, he said.

''Just a few weeks ago, PM Narendra Modi called for all nations to fight terrorism. We are pleased to see United Nations Sanctions Committee designating Masood Azhar, last month,'' he said.

[ Let us realise shared vision and goals, Pompeo tells Modi ]

He hailed Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Donald Trump, saying they are leaders who aren't scared to take risks and the two countries are poised to do "incredible things together".

He also said,''Right now, we have two leaders in President Trump and PM Modi, who are not afraid to take risks where its appropriate. Let's see each other with new eyes and embrace the age of ambition.''

Talking about the meetings he had with the Indian leadership, he said the talks were not just about bilateral ties, but a lot of time was spent on important topics.

"There is a misconception that our countries cannot be full partners but that is not true look what already happened. You have made hard choices to cut off oil imports from Iran. You have gone away from purchasing Venezuelan oil.Those decisions weren't without cost. We are doing everything we can to ensure you have crude imports.We appreciate your efforts in pushing these regimes to behave like normal countries," Pompeo said.

"We shouldn't see each other only through bilateral lens. We should see each other for what we are, great democracies, good friends," he added. Today, 60 percent of global maritime trade transits through Indo-Pacific, in past weeks Islamic Republic of Iran has attacked tankers from Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates, he said.

[Let us realise shared vision and goals, Pompeo tells Modi]

Earlier in the day, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and National Security Advisor Ajit Doval. This is his first high-level engagement with PM Modi-led NDA regime after Lok Sabha elections.

Pompeo, who is in India for a two-day visit, called on Prime Minister Narendra Modi and discussed various aspects of the bilateral relationship. It marks the third visit of a US Secretary of State to India during the Trump administration.

After his India visit from June 25-27, Pompeo will travel to Japan to attend the G-20 Summit with Trump. PM Modi would also be attending the summit of leaders from top 20 economies of the world. US President Trump and PM Modi would be joined by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for their second trilateral summit.

(with PTI inputs)

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