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Answer given by Mr. Patten on behalf of the Commission (April 30, 2004)1

To questions posed by: Max van den Berg
Concerning: Situation of religious minorities in Gujarat, India
Date: March 16, 2004

The Commission has taken note of the reports mentioned by the Honourable Member of Parliament and closely follows the developments in Gujarat. She agrees that the perpetrators of the crimes be brought before the court, that the victims should be rehabilitated and that the rights of religious minorities should be protected.

In reaction to the violence in Gujarat the Commision has given humanitarian assistance to the victims via its office for humanitarian assistance (ECHO).

In addition the European union has agreed to raise all issues related to democracy and human rights in India its constructive dialogue with the Indian government.

India and the EU have recently started the 'process of Athens' - frequent consultations with the Indian authorities - in which opinions are exchanged about issues of concern. Heads of the EU mission in New Delhi -)including the Head of the Delegation of the Commission) closely monitor human rights issues, whereby specific attention is being paid to the situation in Gujarat and issues with regard to freedom of religion.

It is not up to the Commission to make explicit recommendations to private companies with regard to their conduct in third countries. The Commission has however committed itself to encourage companies to comply with the guidelines of the United Nations and the EU with regard corporate responsibility. These refer in particular to the need to protect the human rights of employees and to avoid discrimination of minorities.

1 Unauthorised translation from the Dutch language

India Committee of the Netherlands - May 5, 2004