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India’s expanding covert global operations heightening concern: US media

New York: A leading American newspaper has highlighted India’s growing covert global operations, including espionage and extraterritorial assassinations, that have set off alarm bells around the world.

According to Kashmir Media Service, “For the second time in recent months, the Indian government is facing questions about whether it was involved in an assassination plot on Western soil, as American officials said they had expressed concerns to New Delhi about a thwarted plan to kill a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen,” The New York Times reported.

Noting that the US officials did not publicly accuse India of trying to orchestrate the killing of the dual citizen, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer for the Sikhs for Justice (SfJ), the report pointed out that the revelation of a foiled plot comes just months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed the involvement of the Indian government in the killing of Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, on Canadian territory.

In the case of Pannun, news outlets, led by The Financial Times, reported on Wednesday that the Biden administration had told the Indian government it had information possibly linking New Delhi to the plot against him.

On Thursday, Intercept, an American online news outlet, reported that the Indian government’s intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has been planning assassination targeting Sikh and Kashmiri activists living in foreign countries. Citing intelligence documents, Intercept said that RAW was reportedly working in conjunction with local criminal and dissident networks to carry out assassinations and other attacks. RAW, according to the documents, is targeting individuals and religious institutions allegedly supporting the Kashmir freedom movement, as well as Sikh activists living elsewhere. The Times Dispatch said that in response to those reports, the Indian foreign ministry issued a “vaguely worded” statement acknowledging discussion with the US on the matter. “The U.S. side shared some inputs pertaining to nexus between organized criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others. The inputs are a cause of concern for both countries, and they decided to take necessary follow-up action,” the statement said.

In its own statement on Wednesday, the White House’s National Security Council said, “We are treating this issue with utmost seriousness, and it has been raised by the U.S. government with the Indian government, including at the senior-most levels. Indian counterparts expressed surprise and concern. They stated that activity of this nature was not their policy.”

When Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, made his bombshell announcement in September, it sent already prickly relations between India and Canada to a new low and set off a series of tit-for-tat retaliatory actions, including expulsions of diplomats.

“U.S. officials, by contrast, expressed their concern in the Pannun case privately, highlighting the importance the Biden administration places on its growing relations with India,” the New York Times said. “The two countries have expanded defence and trade ties, with a constant flow of senior American officials visiting the Indian capital in recent months, as the United States tries to counter China’s influence in the region,” the dispatch pointed out. “Still,” it added, “if India was involved in a plot inside the United States, it would represent an audacious breach against a powerful democratic ally, and would intensify questions about New Delhi’s reliability as a partner that were raised after Mr. Trudeau’s accusation.”

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