Friday, July 12, 2024

US lawmakers call for safety of Indian diplomats, missions

A bipartisan duo of US lawmakers has called upon the state department to ensure the safety of Indian diplomats and diplomatic missions in the aftermath of the second attack on the Indian mission in San Francisco.

They, on Thursday, also called for the state department to work with law enforcement agencies to apprehend those responsible.

Two men set fire to the entrance to the Indian consulate in San Francisco on Saturday in a second instance of a breach of security, just a few months after the attack in March.

No one was hurt in the Saturday fire, which was put out by the local fire department.

“As the co-chairs of the India Caucus, we strongly condemn the attempted arson and vandalism at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and the posters circulating on social media with violent rhetoric aimed at Indian diplomats, including Ambassador Sandhu,” said Congressman Ro Khanna, a Democrat, and Michael Waltz, a Republican, referring to personal threats to Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu by a group that claims to be fighting for Khalistan.

The group’s consul general and founder Gurpatwant Pannun was designated a terrorist by India in 2022, but the US has refused to sanction him despite his public threats to Indian diplomats by names such as Sandhu.

Pannun reiterated his threats in a video message released on Thursday without, noticeably, addressing rumours of his death in a road accident. He did not refer to those reports. Not once.

There are many theories about these rumours. One of them, and the most credible of them, is that Pannun may have started these rumours himself as he tries to drop off the radar to avoid investigation and prosecution by US authorities in the aftermath of the attacks on the Indian mission in San Francisco.

In the video message posted on Thursday, Pannun invoked the freedom of speech guaranteed in the US Constitution, which, he did not say, does not cover arson vandalism.

Pannun has not responded to requests for comment.

“We support the right to free speech and freedom of expression for every American, but that is not a license to vandalize property or incite violence,” Khanna and Waltz said in the statement.

They added: “Violence against diplomatic facilities is a criminal offence and will not be tolerated. We urge the State Department to coordinate with law enforcement in their investigation of the damage at the Indian Consulate expeditiously and hold those involved accountable.”

There was no response from the state department to a request for a reaction to the lawmakers’ call.

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