The United States on Tuesday said that it expects accountability from the Indian government in relation to the security concerns raised by Washington regarding an alleged plot by New Delhi to assassinate Sikh separatist leaders in North America.

“We continue to expect accountability from the Government of India based on the results of the Indian inquiry committee’s work, and we are regularly working with them and inquiring for additional updates,” Vedant Patel, the US State Department deputy spokesperson, said at a press conference. “We’ll also continue to raise our concerns directly with the Indian government at senior levels.”

The development came after a report by The Washington Post on Monday identified Vikram Yadav as the officer of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s foreign intelligence agency, who was allegedly involved in the alleged plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States and in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another Sikh separatist leader, in Canada in June.

Pannun, like Nijjar, is an advocate for Khalistan, an independent state for Sikhs.

On Tuesday, India’s external affairs ministry said that the report by the US newspaper makes “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter”.

The Centre in November had said that it has constituted a high-level inquiry committee to examine inputs from the United States about an alleged foiled plot to assassinate Pannun on American soil.

The Washington Posts report is the first time that allegations have emerged about the identity and affiliation of an individual from within the Research and Analysis Wing in the case related to Pannun.

In March, Bloomberg had reported that New Delhi’s investigation into the claims by Washington had found that rogue officials not authorised by the Indian government had been involved in the alleged plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist in the United States.

In late December, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had told the Financial Times that he would look into the evidence, but a “few incidents” would not harm relations between New Delhi and Washington.

“If someone gives us any information, we would definitely look into it,” Modi had told the newspaper. “If a citizen of ours has done anything good or bad, we are ready to look into it. Our commitment is to the rule of law.”

What did the report say?

The Washington Post’s report cited assessments of American intelligence agencies that the operation against Pannun had allegedly been cleared by Samant Goel, the chief of India’s foreign intelligence agency at the time. The article was based on interviews with three dozen current and former unidentified senior officials in the United States, India, Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia.

The United States’ spy agencies also “more tentatively assessed” that India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval was likely to have known about the plans of the Research and Analysis Wing, according to The Washington Post. However, the newspaper quoted unidentified officials as saying that “no smoking gun proof” had emerged.

Officers at the United States’ Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the country’s principal federal law enforcement agency, had sought to prosecute Yadav, the report added. However, an indictment that became public in November referred to Yadav only as an unidentified co-conspirator “CC-1” and left out any mention of the Research and Analysis Wing.

American officials told their Indian counterparts that they would not take punitive measures but urged New Delhi to hold those involved accountable, according to The Washington Post. This message was also emphasised in September during a meeting between Modi and United States President Joe Biden.

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