IN PARLIAMENT

Safety of Indians a priority over partnership with the US: Sushma Swaraj tells Rajya Sabha

The external affairs minister told the Upper House that the attacks on Indians in the US were ‘100% incidents of hate crimes’.

The Centre on Monday said that the recent attacks on Indians in the United States were certainly hate crimes, adding that national interest held greater priority than strategic partnership. Pitching for a close investigation into the cases, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj told Rajya Sabha, “We do not treat these incidents as a matter of law and order. It is not as simple as that. From our side, we say that these are 100% incidents of hate crimes,” PTI reported.

In the past two months, there were three such cases of attacks on Indians in the US – on February 22, engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was shot dead by a US national in Kansas City. A few days later, Harnish Patel, a US citizen of Indian origin, was found dead outside his house in South Carolina, and on March 4, Deep Rai – another US national of Indian origin – was shot in the arm by an unknown assailant in suburban Seattle.

Swaraj said the government was monitoring these incidents to ascertain “whether there was any trend being set”. She added that the US administration under President Donald Trump had told the Centre these were stray incidents. “US authorities have assured us that they are working with all concerned agencies to ensure speedy justice.”

On March 1, the White House had condemned Kuchibhotla’s murder and said that it was an “act of racially motivated hatred”.

The external affairs minister also assured the Upper House that India’s strategic partnership with the US will not deter the government from raising these attacks at the highest level. “Do not think that we will remain silent because of our strategic partnership. That is secondary. The security and safety of our nationals comes first,” Swaraj said.

Her assurance came after Communist Party of India leader D Raja expressed his apprehensions. “Ever since the change in government in the US, people of Indian origin and people of India have been living there with great sense of fear and insecurity. We have a strategic partnership with the US, and that should not prevent us from raising our independent voice,” he said.

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