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21 Mar, 2024 11:44

Rogue Indian officials linked to Sikh murder plot in US – Bloomberg

Unauthorized spies may have been involved in the attempt to kill Khalistan activist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a report claims
Rogue Indian officials linked to Sikh murder plot in US – Bloomberg

An Indian investigation into a plot to kill a Sikh activist on US soil last year has found that agents not authorized by New Delhi were involved in the assassination attempt, Bloomberg reported on Wednesday, citing unnamed officials.

At least one of the individuals involved in the alleged murder-for-hire plot to kill Khalistan separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is designated a “terrorist” by New Delhi, no longer works with the country’s foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the report said. It added that the person still works for the government and no criminal action against him has been initiated.

A US court indictment last year claimed that a government official in New Delhi had tried to orchestrate the assassination of Pannun. The plot was foiled by the FBI. The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a nation-state for India’s minority Sikhs out of the Punjab region.

Meanwhile, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, who has been accused of trying to arrange a murder-for-hire, was arrested in the Czech Republic and is now awaiting extradition to the US.

Responding to the US indictment, New Delhi said such assassination programs are “contrary to Indian government’s policy.” However, it set up a high-level committee to probe “relevant aspects” of the case. Meanwhile, the Indian government has repeatedly asked the US to investigate alleged crimes by Sikh separatist groups including attacks on Indian missions.

Washington has been pressing New Delhi on the issue. Last year, top US security officials, CIA Director William Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, travelled to India to discuss the matter with their Indian counterparts. During a congressional hearing on Wednesday, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, Donald Lu, said the murder plot was a “serious issue” for the relationship between New Delhi and Washington and that the administration of President Joe Biden is taking it “incredibly seriously.”

The plot to assassinate Punnun has also been linked to the murder of another Sikh activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down by unknown assailants in British Columbia, Canada last year. Last September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked the killing to “agents of the Indian government.” New Delhi branded Canada’s claims as “absurd” and “motivated.” The incident sparked a diplomatic row between the two countries. In the early days of the imbroglio, Canada expelled the top RAW operative from the country.

Four retired and two serving Indian security and intelligence officials quoted by Reuters last year denied that the agency engages in extrajudicial killings and added that it does not have a mandate for such operations.

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