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US sent two top officials to India to press for probe into 'plot to assassinate' Sikh separatist: Report


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The report came on a day when India said that it has constituted a high-level enquiry committee to probe allegations relating to a conspiracy to kill the Sikh extremist on American soil. WASHINGTON: The US sent its two top intelligence officials to India to press for an investigation into an alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on American soil earlier this year and hold to account those responsible, an influential American media outlet reported on Wednesday, citing senior administration officials. According to The Washington Post, federal prosecutors are expected to file a superseding indictment against an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, in a New York court on Wednesday regarding murder-for-hire plot targeting Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a separatist Khalistani leader who is both a US and Canadian citizen. The report came on a day when India said that it has constituted a high-level enquiry committee to probe allegations relating to a conspiracy to kill the Sikh extremist on American soil. The United States has discovered a plot to assassinate a separatist Sikh leader on the US soil, the Post reported. It added that the issue has been raised by top leadership including President Joe Biden and CIA Director William J Burns and they have demanded New Delhi to hold those accountable for it. "Gupta allegedly conspired with a number of others, at least one of whom is believed to be an official in India,” The Post reported citing anonymous sources from the Biden Administration. The plot was foiled in June by the Drug Enforcement Administration, shortly after a Sikh separatist in Canada was assassinated. "The discovery of a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on US soil earlier this year so concerned the Biden administration that it dispatched its top two intelligence officials to New Delhi to demand the Indian government investigate and hold to account those responsible,” a senior administration official was quoted as saying by the daily. CIA Director William J.Burns and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines were the two officials. The charges against Gupta, who is not in the United States, will build on a bare-bones indictment, filed in mid-June and unsealed in July, which alleged that Gupta coordinated a USD15,000 advance payment to a purported hit man's associate, according to the people familiar with the matter, the daily claimed. That document gives no indication of who the intended victim was; additional details will be contained in what is known as a superseding indictment, it said. On Wednesday, External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi said the US side shared some "inputs" pertaining to nexus between organised criminals, gun runners and terrorists and that India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on "our national security interests as well" and that relevant departments were examining the issue. India constituted a high-level enquiry committee on November 18 to look into all the relevant aspects of the matter, he said. The daily reported that Biden himself raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting held on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in New Delhi in September. "Indian counterparts expressed surprise and concern" when confronted by the allegations, National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said last week, when the news of the foiled plan broke. "They stated that activity of this nature was not their policy," Watson was quoted as saying by the daily. In a statement to The Washington Post, Pannun claimed India wants to kill me for running the Khalistan referendum campaign. " The filing of new charges could complicate the Biden administration's efforts to deepen strategic ties with India as a counterweight to China, " The Washington Post reported. "There's little to be gained diplomatically from attempting to shame this Indian government and lots to lose," Daniel Markey, a senior adviser on South Asia at the United States Institute of Peace, told the daily. (THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS)