WASHINGTON: The US has said that the issue of shutting down of a Colorado-based Christian NGO in India must be resolved in a manner that is “transparent” and honors India’s laws, even as it expressed concern over the challenges faced by foreign NGOs in the country.
“Over the past couple of years we’ve seen, frankly, a number of foreign-funded NGOs who have encountered significant challenges to continuing their operations, and it’s something we’re watching and it’s something we’re going to engage with the Indian Government on and try to find a way forward,” State Department Acting Spokesman Mark Toner told reporters during a conference call.
Asked about the decision of Compassion International to close down its operations in India, Toner said, “Just to emphasize, we want all parties to be able to work cooperatively and certainly in a way that honors India’s laws and also, as I said, in a transparent process and find a way forward.”
At the same time, he said, the United States has a very strong bilateral relationship with India. The Indo-US relationship was one in which the two sides can talk about all the issues they agree on as two strong democracies, but also can share their concerns, he noted.
“I think this is an area where we have a concern, and we have shared those concerns with the Government of India and we remain concerned about the closure of Compassion International and its operations in India,” Toner said.
“It speaks to our concerns more broadly about civil society and its ongoing vibrancy and health, and the fact that we will always advocate for freedom of expression and association around the world,” he said.
Toner asserted that the US has seen that a number of foreign-funded NGOs over the past couple of years have encountered similar problems and so it remains a concern for it.
“It’s something we’ve raised. Compassion International is obviously just the most recent case. But we’re going to continue to talk to the Indian Government about it,” Toner said.
Compassion International on March 1 announced that it will close down its operations in India on March 15.
The decision to close its India operations impacts nearly 147,000 babies, children and young adults currently registered in Compassion’s child development programs, as well as 127 staff, the NGO said in a statement.
“Though we are saying farewell to Compassion’s current program in India, we know that God’s work has not ended,” said Compassion president and CEO Santiago ‘Jimmy’ Mellado.
The NGO alleged that in May, 2016, Ministry of Home Affairs began blocking Compassion from sending money to its two country offices and 589 church partners throughout the country.
“The Indian government put Compassion on its prior approval list, which requires it to obtain approval from the MHA for each transaction. But any requested approvals have been denied, hindering the organization from paying its staff or funding its programs,” the NGO alleged.
Last summer, former Secretary of State John Kerry spoke with Indian officials on behalf of Compassion, the NGO said.
However, the Indian government has not lifted its restrictions, it said.–PTI