New Delhi: Breaking a week-long silence that had riled some quarters in India, the US President Donald Trump condemned late on Tuesday the Kansas shooting incident in which Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla was killed and another injured. The incident is being investigated as a hate crime.
Trump’s condemnation came in his first speech to a joint session of Congress. The president who had campaigned on an anti-immigration platform ahead of the 8 November presidential elections in the US also slammed recent threats against the Jewish community.
“Recent threats targeting Jewish community centres and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries as well as last week’s shooting in Kansas city remind us that while we may be a nation divided on policies, we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its very ugly forms,” Trump said.
Trump’s comments on the shooting in Olathe in Kansas came a week after the killing of Indian engineer Srinivas Kuchibhotla. He was killed when a former US navy veteran fired at him and a friend inside a bar on 23 February. An American who tried to corner the gunman was also injured. The Indian engineer’s last rites were conducted outside Hyderabad on Tuesday.
In his speech, Trump, however, did not indicate that his policies on immigration—building a wall to keep out Mexican nationals and a crackdown on illegal migrants staying in the US—would be diluted.
“We are going to move away from lower-skilled immigration and adopt a merit-based system. By finally enforcing immigration laws, we will raise wages, help the unemployed, save billions of dollars and make our communities safer,” Trump said.
“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims... We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests,” he said.
Trump’s comments come in the middle of a visit by Indian foreign secretary S. Jaishankar to Washington to sensitize the Trump administration about India’s concerns on immigration and Indian professionals travelling to the US for work on H1B and L1 visas. Jaishankar is also expected to discuss the dates for a meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Trump. Speculation is rife that India had conveyed to the Trump administration that a statement on Kuchibhotla’s killing would be necessary to assuage Indian public sentiment ahead of a Trump-Modi meeting.
India-US ties have warmed considerably in recent years with four US presidential visits since the year 2000. Modi himself had taken the lead to rescript ties with the US under the previous Obama administration after his election in 2014.
Meera Shankar, former Indian ambassador to the US was of the view that Trump’s comments, though late, were “better than a conspicuous silence. It is important that he said it.”
But she pointed out that Trump had later spoken of illegal immigration and crimes—making a linkage between the two. “He did say there was no place in America for hate but he also reinforced the stereotype of the immigrant linked to crimes. He said there would be a special unit created to deal with this,” she said.