US to question India over crackdown on Christian NGOs

The United States has expressed an intention to question India over the latter's apparent crackdown on Christian non-governmental organizations after Colorado-based charity Compassion International was forced to halt its operations in the South Asian nation after 48 years.

(REUTERS / Anindito Mukherjee)Children play cricket in front of parked rickshaws in the old quarters of Delhi, India March 31, 2016.

On Thursday, U.S. State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said Washington would ask India about the closure of Compassion International. He also called on New Delhi to be transparent in implementing its foreign aid regulations, The New York Times relays.

"Unfortunately, we've seen over the past couple of years a number of foreign-funded NGOs in India that have encountered significant challenges in continuing their operations," said Toner. "These NGOs do valuable work. Certainly, these countries and governments have their own reasons for the laws they pass, but we believe it should be transparent and clear why they're shutting down these organizations."

Compassion International has been accused of converting Indians to the Christian faith. Indian officials also say the charity's local partners broke laws by conducting religious activities even though its registration indicates that it is a "social, cultural, economic" organization and that it had turned down the government's offer to have it re-registered as a religious group.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesman Gopal Baglay explained that the shuttering of Compassion International was merely a part of law enforcement. The charity's leaders, on the other hand, complained that they were not given the chance to respond to this accusation and to examine the evidence against them before they were kicked out of India.

In a recent interview with Thomson Reuters, Compassion International's Relations Officer Becca Bishop said they were not formally given the reason for its shutdown in India. She also said she believes New Delhi is cracking down on Christian charities because of the faith they represent.

Since 2014, India has canceled or suspended more than 10,000 charities' licenses to either receive or donate foreign funds. Last year, United Nations experts accused New Delhi of using its foreign fund regulation law to silence its critics.