US warns India over NGO crackdown

By Victor Mallet

Financial Times

The US has criticised the Indian government’s crackdown on civil society groups, with Richard Verma, American ambassador to New Delhi, lamenting the “potentially chilling effects” of official curbs on organisations such as the Ford Foundation.

Two weeks ago India placed the US-based Ford Foundation on a national security watchlist, following complaints about the philanthropy group’s links to an activist who has sought the conviction of Prime Minister Narendra Modi for human rights abuses.

The year-old Hindu nationalist government of Mr Modi has also blocked the bank accounts of Greenpeace India, in part because the environmental organisation has opposed mining projects in rural areas.

“We have one month left to save Greenpeace India from complete shutdown, and to fight [the Ministry of Home Affairs’] indefensible decision to block our domestic accounts,” said Samit Aich, executive director.

Indian press reports said the security services were even investigating the health programmes of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, although the home ministry officially denied any such action.

Mr Verma — whose father migrated to the US from India and landed in New York “with $24 and a bus ticket” — was making a speech about the recently improved US-India ties and what he called “our strategic-plus partnership”.

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