- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Mixed message

The U.S. ambassador to India praised the government in New Delhi for “taking action” against human trafficking a day after the State Department criticized India for failing to meet “minimum standards” to stop sexual slavery and forced labor.

“Recognizing trafficking is an important issue, the [Indian] government is taking action,” Ambassador David C. Mulford wrote in an article in the Times of India.

Mr. Mulford noted that the government created a minister of state for women and child development, elevating a former bureaucratic agency and “raising the profile of the government’s anti-trafficking agenda.”

“The central government is also pursuing initiatives that would establish media-awareness campaigns, coordinate national enforcement of anti-trafficking laws and expand coordination of government efforts at the national and state levels,” he wrote.

Mr. Mulford noted that the U.S. Embassy in the capital and U.S. consulates in other cities are providing assistance to the Indian government and that Washington is contributing $9 million to 24 projects throughout the country to combat human trafficking.

“We have a good working relationship with our counterparts at all levels of the Indian government and support current legislation that would strengthen laws and penalties against traffickers,” wrote Mr. Mulford, a political appointee and former business executive.

The ambassador’s assessment of India’s response to women and children exploited in sex rings and men and women held in involuntary servitude contrasted sharply with the review of India in the State Department’s annual report on human trafficking.

“The government of India does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however it is making significant efforts to do so,” said the report, released Monday.

“India is placed on [the] Tier 2 Watch List for the third consecutive year due to its failure to show evidence of increasing efforts to address trafficking in persons.”

The report assigns nations to three categories with Tier 1 countries in full compliance and Tier 3 at the bottom. Countries on the Tier 2 watch list risk being downgraded and losing U.S. humanitarian assistance.

India yesterday denounced the report and complained that the State Department failed to consider its “active cooperation” with the United States.

“On the subject of trafficking in persons, … we reject judgmental and prescriptive approach by a foreign government,” the Foreign Ministry said.

Liberty bonds

Israeli Ambassador Daniel Ayalon looked to the American Liberty Bell for inspiration when he spoke on the 50th anniversary of the Israel Bonds’ Ambassador’s Ball.

“The Bible tells us that the 50th anniversary, or ‘jubilee,’ is a special time, a time to celebrate liberty and freedom,” he said at Monday’s soiree.

Mr. Ayalon noted that a portion of a verse from the Book of Leviticus was inscribed on the Liberty Bell, most famous for ringing in 1776 to proclaim American independence.

“‘And you shall sanctify the 50th year and proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof. It shall be a jubilee unto you,’” he said.

“Crucial to liberty is freedom of religion,” Mr. Ayalon added, noting that June 7 is also Jerusalem Day, which commemorates the Israeli conquest of the divided city in the 1967 war. The Israeli government proclaimed Jerusalem the national capital and guaranteed Jews, Muslims and Christians access to their holy sites in the city.

“Only after the liberation and unification of Jerusalem could followers of all religions enjoy their most basic rights,” he said.

The annual Ambassador’s Ball promotes the financial instruments that have underpinned the Israeli economy. More than $26 billion in bonds have been sold since they were first issued in 1951.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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