State Department tries to smooth ties with India after Wisconsin massacre

State Department tries to smooth ties with India after Wisconsin massacre

Top State Department officials including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have been working behind the scenes to assuage Indian anger following the attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin over the weekend by an Army veteran and alleged former white supremacist.

Indian government officials and Sikh leaders across India were outraged by the attack that left 6 dead, including 4 Indian nationals, at a Sikh temple near Milwaukee and called on the U.S. to do more to protect Sikhs living in the United Sates. Clinton called Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna from her stop in South Africa Monday after Krishna criticized the U.S. for failed policies and a growing trend of violent incidents against religious minorities.

"I have seen messages of condolence from President Obama and others. They’ve emphasized protection of all faiths. The U.S. government will have to take a comprehensive look at this kind of tendency which certainly is not going to bring credit to the United States of America,” Krishna said.

Protests broke out in several Indian cities in response to the news of the attack, some calling for stricter U.S. gun laws. Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal wrote to India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to urge the Indian government to press the Obama administration to do more to protect Sikhs living in the U.S.

"The government of India must get more actively and vigorously involved in getting the U.S. administration to address the issue in right earnest," wrote Badal.

"That this senseless act of violence should be targeted at a place of religious worship is particularly painful,” Singh, a member of the Sikh community, said in a statement.

U.S. Ambassador Nancy Powell met with Indian government and Sikh community leaders over the weekend to express U.S. government condolences and pledge a thorough investigation. She also visited a Sikh temple in New Delhi to pay her respects.

Back in Washington, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman spoke with India’s ambassador to Washington Nirupama Rao to condemn the attacks and offer condolences.

"Our hearts go out to the victims, their families, and the Sikh community. This is a tragic incident, especially because it happened in a place of worship. Religious freedom and religious tolerance and fundamental pillars of American society," State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said at Monday’s press briefing.