NEW DELHI: The government has conveyed its “deep concern” to the US administration over attacks on Indians there, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said today, asserting that the safety of Indian Diaspora was a top priority.
As Lok Sabha members thumped their benches to welcome her to the House following her absence due to health issues, she highlighted the steps taken by the government following three recent incidents of attacks, including suspected hate crimes, rejecting opposition criticism that it had kept mum.
“To say that we did not take any step or maintained silence is absolutely wrong. This government can never keep silent over such incidents. This is not in our work culture.
We always do more that what is expected of us,” she said, responding to Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge’s criticism.
The Minister said that even when she was convalescing, she had spoken to the family members of the victims and officers of Indian consulate general had reached out to them.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is being accused of silence, sought daily updates from her ministry amid his busy election campaign, Swaraj said.
“The government has taken up this issue with the US government at very high-levels and conveyed our deep concerns.
Rejecting Opposition charge of inaction, Swaraj said the government has tried to solve problems of any Indian living abroad “within 24 hours”.
She said the prompt response of the US leadership and law enforcement authorities to these incidents, besides widespread messages of support from all quarters in the US, gave her confidence that these incidents are acts of individuals and do not represent overwhelming sentiments of Americans towards India.
She informed the House that the FBI was investigating Kuchibhotla’s murder as a case of hate crime. The murder of Harnish Patel, a US national of Indian origin, in South Carolina was in all likelihood a case of robbery gone wrong, the Minister said.
The investigation agencies are yet to establish that the attack on Deep Rai, a US national of Indian origin, on March 4 was a hate crime. He has been discharged from hospital, she said.
“In all three cases, the government through its embassy and consulates immediately reached out to the affected persons and their families for extending all possible help and support. I have personally spoken to the families of Srinivas Kuchibhotla and Deep Rai,” she said.
These families’ members have conveyed their thanks to her ministry, she noted.
She also spoke about American national Ian Grillot, who was also shot while trying to save Kuchibhotla. “I have saluted his heroism and am sure the House joins me in wishing him speedy recovery.”
She also sought to address the concerns raised by Bhartruhari Mahtab (BJD) and Mohammad Salim (CPI-M) over the travel advisory issued by the US advising US nationals against travelling to India.
“I would like to inform members that there is no travel advisory in force for India at present. A reference to India has been included in their ‘worldwide caution’ report which the US state department releases every six months. These are in the form of broad assessment of threat perceptions.
“Such references to India have been included in previous reports as well and do not reflect the change of administration in the US. In fact, India-specific references were far more detailed in previous reports,” Swaraj said.–PTI