WASHINGTON: US State Department spokesperson Ned Price has condemned the "offensive comments" about Prophet Muhammad (Peace Be Upon Him) by members of India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
On June 5, BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma and another party leader, Naveen Kumar Jindal, had made disrespectful remarks about the Prophet (PBUH) and after worldwide condemnation, the BJP had to distance itself from their statements, announcing disciplinary action against the duo.
The party had suspended Sharma and expelled Jindal.
Meanwhile, an uproar was witnessed over the remarks across the world and within India, as Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party faced condemnation in Muslim countries and other nations. Muslims took to the streets across Asia, including India, where protesters faced a crackdown by Indian authorities.
Police in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh had made at least 300 arrests in connection with the unrest after protests erupted there early in the month and razed the houses of several people over their alleged involvement in demonstrations.
Clashes had broken out between Muslims and Hindus and in some cases and between police and protesters in several areas, the report said.
During Price's press briefing on Thursday, a journalist raised the issue of the BJP members' offensive remarks and the subsequent demolition of Muslims' houses.
"Would you like to say something about these hate crimes committed by [the] Indian government against Muslims and other minorities?" he asked the State Department spokesperson.
In reply, Price said, "Well, this is something that we’ve condemned. We condemn the offensive comments made by two BJP officials, and we were glad to see that the party publicly condemned those comments."
He further said the US regularly engaged with the Indian government at senior levels on human rights concerns, including freedom of religion, of belief, and "we encourage India to promote respect for human rights".
"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."
To another question about progress in ties with the new PML-N-led coalition government in Pakistan, Price said meetings had been held with the representatives of the new setup on multiple occasions.
In this connection, he particularly 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 Russia's invasion of Ukraine was also discussed between the two dignitaries.
"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," he concluded.