US announces murder-for-hire charges against Indian national in plot to kill Sikh leader in New York
- US raises issue of assassination of India’s foreign minister.
- The State Department spokesman says India is also investigating the matter.
- Washington is asking New Delhi to cooperate with Canada’s investigation.
WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Tony Blinken raised the issue of the assassination attempt on prominent Sikh leader Gurpatwad Singh Pannoon in New York with India’s foreign minister, a State Department spokesman said on Wednesday.
According to a The news report, Matthew Miller said Washington conveyed to New Delhi that it was taking the matter very seriously.
When asked about the assassination attempt on the Sikh leader, Miller said it would not be appropriate to comment until the Justice Department completes its investigations. He also said that India is also investigating the matter.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that India had yet to cooperate with investigations into the killing of a Sikh leader in Canada, and when asked how optimistic he was that India would now cooperate with the US, the State Department spokesman said that the country had told India to cooperate with Canada’s investigations and was awaiting Indian investigations into the Indian conspiracy in America.
He said India’s cooperation cannot be speculated until the investigations are completed. He declined to go beyond the details of the indictment when asked if India had attacked US sovereignty.
US law enforcement officials announced they had filed a “murder-for-hire” charge against Indian national Nikhil Gupta in what they said was a “failed plot to kill” pro-Khalistan leader Pannun allegedly overseen by an Indian government official .
Sources said Indian national Gupta is a veteran operative working for India’s RAW spy agency.
The US indictment said Gupta, an Indian national residing in India, “is an associate of CC-1 and has described his involvement in international drug and arms trafficking in his communications with CC-1 and others” and that he was directed by the Indian government official to kill Pannun, who is the founder of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) and spokesperson for the Khalistan Referendum.
Shortly after the indictment was unsealed, the White House said it had raised the issue with the Indian government at the highest levels. He added that Indian officials responded with “surprise and concern”.
“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, here in New York, an American citizen of Indian origin who has publicly supported the establishment of a sovereign state for the Sikhs,” said US Attorney Damian Williams.
“We will not tolerate attempts to kill US citizens on US soil,” he added.
The Sikhs are a religious minority that make up about 2% of India’s population. Some groups have long called for a separate homeland for the Sikhs.
The Indian government has often reacted strongly to demands by Sikh separatists in Western countries for Khalistan, or a separate homeland.
Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Judd blamed India for recent statements blaming India for the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijar, which has soured relations between the nations.
Trudeau claimed there are “credible allegations of a possible link” between the killing of Khalistani leader Nijjar in June and Indian government agents.
New Delhi, however, dismissed the allegations as “absurd” and asked Canada to crack down on anti-India elements operating on its territory.
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