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US taking steps to protect Indian missions, diplomats, says senior State Department official

Washington, July 7 The US is taking all necessary measures to “protect the safety and security” of India’s embassy and consulates and people who work there, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

There is a heightened sense of urgency about the safety and security of Indian missions here and diplomats after the incident of arson at the San Francisco consulate last Saturday.

This was the second attack on the facility after pro-Khalistan protestors had sought to break in in March.

“Consistent with our obligations under the Vienna Conventions, the Department is taking steps, including coordination with federal, state, and local law enforcement authorities, to protect the safety and security of the Indian Embassy and Consulates and the individuals who work within them,” said Assistant Secretary of State David Lu, who heads the South and Central Asia department.

He also reiterated that the US “strongly condemns the reported acts of vandalism and attempted arson against” the consulate and, added: “Vandalism or violence against diplomatic facilities or foreign diplomats in the United States is a criminal offense”.

This was more of less what State Department Spokesperson Mathew Miller had on Monday in the first public response from the US on the incident.

Indian diplomats have seen heightened security in the days since the incident as they brace for another round of protests as threatened by SFJ chief Gurpatwant Pannun in a video message released on Thursday in which, tellingly, he vowed to hold Indian diplomats, including Ambassador Taranjit Singh Sandhu, responsible for the death of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June.

A response was awaited from the San Francisco police on the state of the investigation into the Sunday morning incident, which is understood to have taken place at about 1.40 a.m. and lasted about 10 minutes, which included the time taken by the local fire fighters to put out the fire before it could become dangerous.

Though it was a July 4 holiday weekend, all major security agencies were involved as the matter was pursued by the Indian mission here “at the highest level”.

A bipartisan duo of US lawmakers urged the State Department on Thursday to ensure the safety and security of Indian missions and diplomats in a joint statement.

“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 Ambassador Sandhu.

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