Embassy Vatican CONFIDENTIAL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/9/2029 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, KIRF, IN, PK, VT
SUBJECT: VATICAN OFFICIAL ON INDIA-PAKISTAN CONFLICT AND INDIAN APPROACH TO RELIGIOUS FREEDOM
REF: VATICAN 3
CLASSIFIED BY: Rafael Foley, Pol Chief. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) At a January 7 meeting with the DCM, the Holy See’s Secretariat of State point person for South Asia, Monsignor Joseph Murphy, discussed the Church’s view on tensions between India and Pakistan. The Vatican is concerned about the potential for further violence, he said, and the Pope underlined this concern in his annual address to the diplomatic corps on January 8 (reftel). Both countries have non-resident Ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. The Pakistani Ambassador, based in Paris, maintains regular contact with the Holy See. The Indian Ambassador, based in Geneva, does not. (Murphy speculated that Indian diplomats avoid such meetings to dodge discussions of religious freedom with the Holy See, arguing that New Delhi has very limited influence on developments in India’s state-level administrations.) Murphy said that the Holy See would be willing to use its influence to reduce tensions, but said the Vatican has little direct pull with either party. The Vatican would, however, be pleased to deliver helpful messages to governments that can in turn influence Islamabad and New Delhi.
2. (C) Elaborating on religious freedom issues in India, Murphy said a victory for Hindu Nationalist party BJP in India’s general elections next May probably would not be good for the Catholic Church. The BJP has favored anti-conversion laws on the books in five Indian states. These are of concern to the Vatican, even if they are not being applied, because they create a hostile environment to religious freedom and discourage the conversion of Dalits in particular. Even the Congress Party - which is traditionally more helpful on religious freedom issues, in the Church’s view - supported them in Himachal Pradesh state in order to gain electoral advantage.
3. (C) On a positive note, Murphy said the Christmas holidays were peaceful for the estimated 17 million Christians in India, including in Orissa —where there was finally a more robust security presence.