The Centre on Thursday described the United States’ allegations that an Indian national was involved in the killing of a Khalistani separatist leader on American soil as a “matter of concern”.
The remarks came a day after the US Attorney’s Office released a statement alleging that an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta had been recruited by an Indian government employee, who “directed a plot to assassinate on US soil an attorney and political activist who is a US citizen of Indian origin residing in New York City”.
Although the statement did not name the “attorney and political activist”, a report in the Financial Times on November 23 had identified him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. The Financial Times had reported that the United States had foiled a plot to assassinate Pannun and issued a warning to India over concerns that the Modi government was involved in the conspiracy.
Pannun, the founder of a group called Sikhs for Justice, was declared an “individual terrorist” under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act in 2020.
At a press briefing on Thursday, Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said that the United States had shared inputs about the thwarted plot that pertained to a “nexus between organised criminals, gunrunners, terrorists and other extremists”.
Bagchi said that an Indian national’s alleged involvement was “contrary to [Indian] government policy”.
“The nexus between organised crime, trafficking, gunrunning and extremists at an international level is a serious issue for the law enforcement agencies and organisations to consider and it is for that reason that a high-level inquiry committee has been constituted and we will be guided by its results,” he added.
On Wednesday, the Centre announced that it has constituted a high-level inquiry committee to examine inputs from the United States about the allegations.
The United States statement had claimed that Gupta had been recruited by the alleged government employee to “orchestrate the assassination” in or around May. It alleged that the Indian government employee had “directed the assassination plot from India”. Gupta allegedly agreed to do so in exchange for help in “securing the dismissal of cases against” him in India.
In a deal negotiated by Gupta, the alleged Indian government employee agreed to pay the undercover officer $100,000 for the murder. On or about June 9, 2023, the alleged employee and Gupta “arranged for an associate to deliver $15,000 in cash” to the undercover officer “as an advance payment for the murder”.
The development comes two months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. He was shot dead in the parking lot of a gurdwara in Surrey near Vancouver on June 18.
India has rejected Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd and motivated”.
According to the Financial Times, the US shared details of the thwarted plot to kill Pannun with a wider group of allies after Canada’s public accusation.