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29 Feb, 2024 12:44

New Delhi urges Washington to investigate Sikh separatists in US

India has sought assistance from the US as it cracks down on supporters of the Khalistan secession movement
New Delhi urges Washington to investigate Sikh separatists in US

The Indian government has again asked the US to investigate alleged crimes by Sikh separatist groups such as those behind attacks on Indian missions, during high-level talks between the two countries, The Hindu newspaper reported on Thursday.

The ongoing request was repeated when a delegation led by Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla met in New Delhi on Wednesday with a US team led by Kristie Canegallo, Acting Deputy Secretary of the US Department of Homeland Security, to review cooperation in counterterrorism and security.

According to an official release, the two sides discussed ways to tackle terrorism and violent extremism, as well as drug trafficking and organized crime. New Delhi and Washington have vowed to counter “illegal migration, human trafficking, money laundering, cyber-crimes, and misuse of the cyber domain for illegal activities including terror-financing.”

Discussions about the activities of followers of the Khalistan movement in the US, though not mentioned in the official readout, were reported by several Indian media outlets. Khalistan, a separate nation-state demanded by some sections of the minority Sikh community, is seen by India as a major threat to its territorial integrity. The movement has strong support among the Sikh diaspora in the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and other Western countries.

New Delhi has repeatedly shared its concerns with governments in such countries and has denounced recent attacks on Indian missions there, allegedly carried out by Khalistan sympathizers.

Earlier this week, Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar asserted that India expects action against the culprits in last year’s attacks on its diplomatic missions in London, San Francisco, and Ottawa, among other cities.

New Delhi’s representation comes against the backdrop of an ongoing diplomatic row between it and Washington, and with Ottawa. Last year, a US court indictment alleged an Indian government official had attempted to orchestrate the assassination in New York of controversial Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a plot foiled by the FBI.

Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national who allegedly tried to recruit a hitman, was arrested in the Czech Republic last year and is awaiting extradition to the US. Meanwhile, New Delhi has formed a “high-level committee” to probe the matter.

When FBI head Christopher Wray visited India in the immediate aftermath of the US’ indictment, New Delhi asked him to share intelligence on Khalistan supporters living in the US. At the time, the FBI chief claimed that the US was “aggressively” investigating attacks on the Consulate of India in San Francisco last March and July.

The US case has been linked to the assassination of prominent Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in a suburb near Vancouver last year in June. Ottawa linked this killing to “agents” of the Indian government, triggering a heated spat between the two sides. India has repeatedly denied the allegations and sought Canadian action against Khalistani “extremism” on its soil.

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