New Delhi: The US President Joe Biden sent his spy chief to New Delhi after the plot to kill US-based Sikh leader, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, came to light, news agency Reuters reported.
According to Kashmir Media Service, Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director William Burns travelled to India to take up the matter after the US authorities uncovered a conspiracy by an Indian national to hire a hitman to murder Pannun, a resident of New York and leader of Sikhs for Justice, the organization spearheading the movement for the creation the Khalistan – an independent homeland for Sikhs by separating Punjab from India.
The US has claimed that an Indian government official directed the attempted assassination plot from India.
The Washington Post citing a senior Biden administration official reported that CIA director William Burns visited India in early August and told head of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) Ravi Sinha that “India needed to investigate [the plot] and hold those responsible accountable, and that the United States needed an assurance that this would not happen again.”
The assassination plot, which came to light in late July 2023, prompted high-level discussions between India and America, with the US officials demanding a thorough investigation from their Indian counterparts.
As per a senior US official Biden personally raised the issue with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at a bilateral meet during his visit to New Delhi for the G20 summit. In his talk with Modi, the US President detailed “the potential repercussions for our bilateral relationship were similar threats to persist”.
These diplomatic engagements were part of Washington’s efforts to address the incident, which included visits to New Delhi by the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in November, Reuters reported.
Court documents detail how an Indian government agency employee, identified only as “CC-1”, directed a murder-for-hire plot against Pannun. Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old Indian national, was charged with orchestrating the attempted murder, which involved an undercover US law enforcement officer posing as a hitman.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, in a statement said, “The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.”
The development follows a Financial Times report last week that said that the US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill Pannun and issued a warning to India over concerns New Delhi was involved.
The said plot against Pannun came to light after another high-profile case involving the murder of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has announced in the Parliament the involvement of Indian government agents in this killing. The incident led to a diplomatic spat, including the expulsion of diplomats and threats to derail trade negotiations.
A senior official described the assassination plot as a “serious matter”.
The Indian government has launched an investigation into the issue saying that it views the alleged links to a government official as a “matter of concern”.