NEW DELHI — External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said March 20 that strategic ties with Washington will not prevent India from discussing the safety and well-being of Indians and the Indian diaspora with the U.S. government.

Responding to a question in the Rajya Sabha on hate crimes against Indians in the U.S., she said that for the Modi government, the interests of Indians take priority over strategic partnerships with other nations.

"Strategic partnership does not mean we will ignore the interests of the Indians," she replied to a question raised by Communist Party of India’s D. Raja.

"For us, strategic partnership is secondary. The safety and security of Indians and people of Indian origin is primary. Have no doubts that we would keep silent because we have strategic relations with a country."

Addressing concerns raised by members about the recent hate crimes against Indians in the U.S., Swaraj said New Delhi was "closely monitoring" the situation.

"Till date, the U.S. authorities are saying these are sporadic incidents. But we are watching if a trend is emerging. We are sure the U.S. authorities would not let it become these hate crimes a trend."

In last few weeks, at least attacks on Indians in the U.S. have been reported.

On Feb. 22, Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a 32-year-old Indian engineer, was shot dead by Adam Purinton, in a bar in Kansas. On March 2, Harnish Patel, a U.S. national of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown individuals in Lancaster, South Carolina. And on March 4, Deep Rai, a U.S. national of Indian origin, was shot by an unidentified individual near Seattle, allegedly after being told to leave the country.

"The government has taken up this issue with the U.S. government at very high levels and conveyed our deep concerns. We have called for necessary measures to ensure the safety and security of Indian diaspora and expeditious investigation into these incidents," Swaraj said in a statement.

She pointed out that President Donald Trump said on Feb. 28 that the U.S. "stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms."

"Several senators and congressmen have also expressed their condolences and regret over the tragic incidents. They have been deeply appreciative of the contribution and role of the Indian community in the U.S.,” she added.

"I would like to reassure this House and the members that safety and security of Indian diaspora abroad remains a top priority for this government. 

"We are in a continuous dialogue with the U.S. government. Close contacts with the local Indian community groups are being maintained through our embassy and consulates to address any emergent issues," Swaraj said.

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