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12 Dec, 2023 09:25

FBI chief raises Sikh leader assassination plot with New Delhi

Christopher Wray is discussing the Khalistan row with the heads of India’s intelligence and crime agencies during a three-day visit to the country
FBI chief raises Sikh leader assassination plot with New Delhi

FBI Director Christopher Wray met his Indian counterpart in New Delhi on Monday, amid an ongoing investigation into alleged Indian involvement in an attempt to kill a Sikh separatist leader in New York.

Wray, who is on a three-day visit to India, held talks with Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Praveen Sood. The US official is set for separate meetings with the heads of India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), Intelligence Bureau, and Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), as well as National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Indian media reported on Tuesday.

Wray’s visit to India is the first by an FBI chief in 12 years and comes amid the backdrop of an investigation into alleged Indian government involvement in the attempted assassination of a Sikh activist in New York. The target, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, is the founder of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), an organization advocating the creation of the state of Khalistan. SFJ is banned in India, while Pannun is on a wanted terrorist list.

According to a US court indictment, an Indian intelligence officer, who has not been named, worked directly with Indian national Nikhil Gupta to arrange an assassination attempt against Pannun in New York in June. Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic and is awaiting trial.

The case is closely linked to the killing of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June this year. In September, Ottawa publicly accused India of being involved in Nijjar’s murder.

The CBI, India’s domestic crime investigation agency, did not mention Khalistan activists in a press release following Monday’s meeting with Wray. It noted, however, that the talks had focused on “strengthening exchange of information on criminal matters, for improved coordination in combating transnational crimes and sharing of expertise in the investigation of technology-enabled crimes.”

Both agencies recognized the challenges posed by organized crime networks, cyber-enabled financial crimes, ransomware threats, economic crimes, and transnational crimes, the statement said.

Director Wray’s visit signifies a step towards deepening cooperation and shared commitment to combat crime in all its manifestations in the spirit of international police cooperation,” it added.

Prior to the FBI chief’s visit, India’s Foreign Ministry had described the trip as part of the “ongoing cooperation” between Washington and New Delhi in the areas of security and counterterrorism.

The Indian Express reported last week that Wray was expected to discuss the Khalistan movement, an alleged “gangster nexus,” and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir with Dinkar Gupta, the chief of the NIA counterterrorism agency.

Wray’s trip also comes days after US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer was in Delhi to meet with Indian Deputy National Security Advisor Vikram Misri. CIA Director William Burns and Director of US National Intelligence Avril Haines previously traveled to India in August and October respectively, to demand an investigation into allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in attacks against Sikh activists, the Washington Post reported.

Responding to the accusations, the Indian Foreign Ministry last week insisted that such tactics were “contrary to government policy.” India has created its own high-level committee to probe “all the relevant aspects of the matter.

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