Washington, Mar 21: The US has condemned as “absolutely unacceptable” the attack on the Indian Consulate in San Francisco by some pro-Khalistan elements during a protest, and said it is committed to the safety and security of diplomatic facilities and the diplomats who work within them.
Raising pro-Khalistan slogans, the protesters on Sunday broke open the makeshift security barriers raised by the city police and installed two so-called Khalistan flags inside the Consulate premises. Two consulate personnel soon removed these flags.
Soon thereafter, a group of angry protesters entered the Consulate premises and started hitting the door and windows with iron rods.
“That vandalism, it’s just absolutely unacceptable,” John Kirby, National Security Council Coordinator for strategic communications at the White House, told reporters on Monday at a daily news conference, strongly condemning the incident.
“The State Department’s diplomatic security service is working with local authorities. I can’t speak for the San Francisco police, but I can say that the diplomatic security service is working with local authorities to properly investigate and obviously, the State Department is going to be working from an infrastructure perspective to repair the damage, but it’s unacceptable,” Kirby said in response to a question.
US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also condemned the acts of violence against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco that have outraged Indian Americans and people in India.
“We condemn the acts of violence against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. We are committed to the safety and security of these facilities and the diplomats who work within them,” Sullivan said in a tweet on Monday night.
“The State Department is in touch with local law enforcement on the next steps in this matter,” Sullivan said.
His remarks came amidst reports that those responsible for the vandalism in San Francisco continued to protest in front of the Consulate as no action was taken by local law enforcement agencies so far. There was also an attempt to set fire to the Consulate building.
The State Department also issued a statement indicating that those behind the act would be held accountable.
“The US condemns the attack on Sunday against the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. Violence against diplomatic facilities within the US is a punishable crime,” it said.
“It is our priority to defend the security and safety of these facilities and the diplomats who work within them,” said the South and Central Asia Bureau of the State Department.
India on Monday lodged a strong protest with the US Charge d’Affaires in Delhi over the incident of vandalism at the Consulate General in San Francisco.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in New Delhi said the US government was asked to take appropriate measures to prevent the recurrence of such incidents. In a separate statement, the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) strongly condemned the attack on the Indian mission in San Francisco, California.
“The United States and India are vibrant democracies and understand that the right to assemble peacefully and protest is sacrosanct. However, violence and vandalism will not be condoned or tolerated,” it said.
Diplomats and consular staff deserve the same right to a secure and peaceful work environment, free from external harm and threats, it said.
“We stand by Dr TV Nagendra Prasad, the honourable Consul General of India in San Francisco, and his staff,” it said.
The USISPF urged the local authorities in California and the Congressional leadership of the district to take the necessary action against the culprits and those guilty of aiding and abetting. “We thank the State Department for responding promptly.” US-India Business Council (USIBC) also condemned the attacks against the Consulate General of India in San Francisco.
“We stand in solidarity with Indian Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, Consul General Dr TV Nagendra Prasad, and the staff at the Consulate in San Francisco,” it said.
“They work every day to enhance the relationship between the world’s oldest and largest democracy; we extend our friendship and well wishes as they continue these efforts with the expectation of safety, respect, and the full protections of US law,” the USIBC said.
“Violence and vandalism towards diplomatic facilities violate the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and the shared values that underpin the US-India partnership,” the USIBC said as it applauded the prompt reactions and statements of the Department of State and National Security Council to this incident.
“We support the continued efforts of local, state, and federal authorities to ensure the protection of diplomatic and consular staff, and to hold violators of the applicable laws accountable for their actions,” it said.
Indian American community leader Ajay Jain Bhutoria urged San Francisco city to take immediate and necessary actions against those responsible for this.
“We call on the San Francisco Police Department to take immediate action against those responsible for the recent vandalism at the consulate and provide safety and security to all working there and visiting the embassy for their needs,” Bhutoria said.
“We want to take action against whoever did that violent act in San Francisco because this country allows us to do peaceful protests and we want to keep it that way,” Jassee Singh from Sikhs of America said.
“Whenever there are some issues, we have the right to demonstrate peacefully. But we would like the authorities to take strict action against people who committed violence in San Francisco at the Indian Consulate,” Singh said.
Indiaspora in a statement condemned the violence and vandalism at the Indian Consulate in San Francisco. “We hope our friends at the consulate and our community in the Bay Area are safe and that swift action is taken by law enforcement,” it said.