United Nations/Geneva, Jun 21: India has rejected a comment by the UN's top human rights official on foreign influence laws, saying principles of “transparency and accountability cannot be applied selectively.”

India's Permanent Representative of India to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Geneva Ambassador Arindam Bagchi, said he "humbly disagrees" with the brief reference to India made by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk in his Global Update 56th session of the Human Rights Council this week.

Turk had said in his global update that a “worrying trend in terms of civic space is the consideration or adoption of so-called “transparency” or “foreign influence” laws in over 50 countries, including in the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Georgia, India, Kyrgyzstan, the Russian Federation, Slovakia and Turkiye. These laws risk having serious chilling effects on the work of civil society, freedom of expression and of association.”

Bagchi said democratic nations across the world, including India, have had regulations for many decades to guard against legitimate concerns about the misuse of foreign funds.

“Principles of transparency and accountability cannot be applied selectively. Portraying a dependence on the crutches of opaque or illegal foreign funding is also a disservice to India's vibrant civil society,” he said.

Bagchi added that ongoing global conflicts have “unfortunately” divided the Human Rights Council further.

“It is more important than ever for the Office of High Commissioner to focus on its core mandates,” he said.

Noting that the High Commissioner's global update is a rather gloomy assessment of human rights across the world, Bagchi spoke about “our pride” in India's just concluded general elections.

He said that as previously underscored, “concerns about this process were unwarranted” and the Indian general elections was the largest electoral exercise in the history of mankind, with 650 million voters with full faith in the electoral mandate.

“And all this is backed by a pluralistic and open society with robust institutional mechanisms and safeguards. We do believe that human rights of all can be best promoted and protected in such environments,” Bagchi added. PTI