Allegations of Indian involvement in assassination efforts in US and Canada is very concerning says State Dept nominee

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Washington, Feb 9 (PTI) The allegations that India was involved in the assassination attempts in the US and Canada are very concerning, a senior academician nominated to a top human rights diplomatic position in the State Department has told lawmakers.


“Yes, it is very concerning what happened on US soil and Canadian soil,” Dafna Hochman Rand, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, told members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during her confirmation hearing on Thursday.

She was responding to a question from Senator Ben Cardin, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

“I want to raise India... We know about a plot to assassinate... on US soil and Canadian soil. I'd like to hear your commitment to how you would get engaged in those types of efforts to make sure that type of conduct does not take place,” Cardin asked.


“First and foremost, it's clear that India is a critical ally, the oldest democracy there, the biggest democracy, but it is those shared values, the democratic values that we need that bind this alliance. And as if confirmed, as DRL's Assistant Secretary, I will be a voice in the administration, making sure that we're not abashed,” Rand said in response to the question.

India has described as a "matter of concern" the US linking an Indian official to a man charged with conspiring to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil, and asserted that follow-up action will be taken based on findings of a panel investigating the allegations.

India has already constituted a probe team to investigate the allegations relating to the foiled plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh extremist who is an American and Canadian citizen.


Regarding Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations that there was a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in a Vancouver suburb in June.

The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson said the main issue with Ottawa has been that of activities of anti-India elements in that country.

"Insofar as Canada is concerned, they have consistently given space to anti-India extremists and violence. That is at the heart of the issue. Our diplomatic representatives have borne the brunt of this," he said.


On other issues, Rand said, “We are not afraid to talk about our concerns about human rights, democracy and of course these troubling trends towards what we're seeing...Again, I'm not in the administration, so I don't know all the details of what happened. And I understand the DOJ and FBI are working on it, but I think it's critical that even as we strengthen our relationship with India as part of our Indo-Pacific strategy, we make human rights and democracy the centre of that relationship,” Rand said.

“We talk truth in this relationship and we speak frankly about our concerns. So I'm not shy and I will be a voice at the State Department and in the administration making that clear,” said Rand who on November 9 last was nominated by the president to this position.

Rand currently serves as a Distinguished Resident Fellow in Strategic Affairs at Georgetown University’s Institute for the Study of Diplomacy and as a Lecturer at Princeton’s School of Public and International Affairs.


She has spent the past two decades in public service, including most recently as the Director of the Office of Foreign Assistance at the Department of State. Previously, she was the Vice President of Policy and Research at Mercy Corps, a non-governmental humanitarian organization serving communities in over 40 countries.

Earlier in her career, Rand served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labour, as well as on the staff of the State Department’s Office of Policy Planning and the National Security Council. She is the former Deputy Director of Studies at the Centre for a New American Security and a former professional staff member of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence.

She started her career in government as the foreign policy and defence Legislative Assistant to Senator Frank R. Lautenberg from New Jersey. Her research has focused on international security and governance in the Middle East and North Africa, including two books on the subject. A native of Massachusetts, she earned her undergraduate degree at Harvard University and her PhD in political science at Columbia University. PTI LKJ AMS AKJ AMS