Friday, June, 21,2024

Latest News

"That's just an unacceptable red line...": US Ambassador Garcetti on Pannun case

New Delhi: Acknowledging that India and the United States are working together in the investigation of the alleged foiled assassination plot against Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti said that a 'red line' should not be crossed between the two countries.
Referring to the Khalistani marches and the threats issued by Pannun, Garcetti said that the American system protects free speech "for better or for worse," while adding that an American citizen can be convicted or deported only according to the country's laws.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is an India-designated terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship. He has repeatedly issued threats against India.
In an exclusive interview with ANI, Garcetti said, "When people do step over the line saying something will be bombed as opposed to saying somebody shouldn't fly. The United States freedom of speech, we want success for anybody if there's a criminal accusation to actually reach the threshold that would have a successful outcome."
"Under our law, for an American citizen to be convicted in an American court or to be deported to have a criminal case in another country, it has to meet our law, and so we'll continue working. And if anybody ever says something that steps over that line, and I know it's gotten very close, we will be working together on that," he added.
Last year, Pannun threatened that Air India would not be allowed to operate on November 19. Following this, he also threatened an attack on the Indian Parliament on the anniversary of the Parliament attack on December 13.
Further referring to the ongoing investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate Pannun, Garcetti said that the fact that New Delhi and Washington are working together to hold those behind criminal action, shows how strong and close the India-US relationship currently is.
He, however, also emphasized that a 'red line' should not be crossed and no government employee of any country can be involved in an assassination plot of a foreign citizen.
"I think that's absolutely critical. For any of us, just abstractly, that has to be a red line. No government or government employee can be involved in the alleged assassination of one of your own citizens. That's just an unacceptable red line," Garcetti said.
"Any country, having an active member of their government involved in a second country trying to assassinate one of their citizens. That's, I think, usually a red line for any country. That's a basic issue of sovereignty. That's a basic issue of rights," he added.
As per the US Justice Department indictment, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, who is currently in custody, has been charged with the murder-for-hire of Pannun. The US Justice Department had claimed that an Indian government employee, who was not identified in the indictment filed, had recruited Gupta to hire a hitman to allegedly assassinate Pannun, which was foiled by US authorities.
The US envoy also appreciated that India set an inquiry commission to look into the matter.
"I was very pleased that India put together this commission of inquiry, put senior people who are experienced in law enforcement on that, and that they have been digging in on this side domestically to uncover any evidence that would show a murder for hire plot that included anybody who was from the Indian government," he said.
"I think, strongly, but so far, everything that's been asked of the Indian government has been done. And I would say vice versa. Whenever there is accusations the other direction, we take that incredibly seriously," Garcetti added.
In December last year, US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jon Finer acknowledged India's establishment of a Committee of Enquiry to investigate the plot to allegedly kill Pannun in the US.
Elaborating more on the US criminal justice system, the US Ambassador said that according to the American system, each case is looked at individually, while adding that if any other country highlights an incident transcending borders, it will be taken seriously.
"Each incident is looked at each time. And if the Indian government ever brings up something, if they gave up something today, we'd be looking at it tomorrow. It's not an ongoing investigation of a person. That's not how our criminal justice system works. We believe there's an act. If a friend from another country is saying this is an act that transcends a border, we will always look at that, take that incredibly seriously," Garcetti further added.
Regarding the attack on the Indian consulate in San Francisco last year, the US Ambassador said that tremendous resources and huge hours have been devoted in the investigation of the attack. He also affirmed hope that a positive resolution will be reached.
"I can't tell you how many resources have gone towards that. And not just that, by the way, when there have been attacks, for instance, against the consulate in San Francisco. There have been thousands of hours, tremendous resources, millions of dollars put into that investigation. I hope that we'll have a positive resolution. Nobody should be able to break the law. That's a clear action, you know, trying to set something on fire," Garcetti said.
"Cases can be difficult because you have to put the evidence together, but I hope that something like that is a better example of when something clearly transcends into action and not just words. So action has been taken against those who are the Indian mission I can't comment on an ongoing investigation. I can say we've worked incredibly closely together on that investigation," he further said.
The Consulate General of India in San Francisco was attacked on March 19 by a group of assailants. Some attackers attempted to set the Consulate building on fire by sprinkling inflammable substances early in the morning. Subsequently, on July 2, at midnight, a few people attempted to set the Consulate building on fire.
India raised strong objections to the incident, following which an investigation was opened into the incident. The incident is also being probed by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). NIA also released pictures of 10 wanted accused and sought information about them from the general public.
On being asked about the Khalistani marches and parades that are held in multiple US cities, Garcetti said that people do say "abhorrent" things in multiple protests, and added that, being a Jew, he had also heard people condemning Jews.
"Look, in the United States, we have people who march and say things that are abhorrent to us. You know, I live in a country where I listen to people who say abhorrent things all the time. When I was president of our city council, people had protected hate speech. They could say horrible things about your ethnicity. We have people who talk about not wanting to be a part of America. Our system protects that speech, for better or for worse. It's never nice. We have a philosophy...You fight speech with more speech," he said.
He further said that once authority starts arresting people for their speech, it becomes a "slippery slope".
"They (people) can say, why don't you just arrest people for what they say? We don't have that system. I, as ambassador, can't change that rule. Even while it hurts us sometimes, things that are just about America, not even talking about India at all, what people say. As a Jew, I had people who stood on a freeway overpass in my city condemning Jews. And they're not arrested. If they threaten violence, they can be. But it's also a slippery slope. Once you start arresting for what people say, that can go really extreme. And so it's the American philosophy not to," Garcetti added. 

  Share on

Related News