Pannun ‘murder plot’: Indian-American lawmakers express concern over Nikhil Gupta’s US indictment

Team India Sentinels Saturday 16th of December 2023 12:05 PM

US Congress members of Indian origin fear that the Pannun case may hit ties between Washington and New Delhi. (Representative photo.) 

New Delhi: Five Indian-American members of the United States Congress issued a joint statement after being briefed by the Joe Biden administration with classified information on an Indian citizen’s involvement in an alleged assassination plot of a Canadian-American Sikh Khalistani activist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. They also welcomed India’s announcement of setting up an inquiry panel to investigate the matter.

In the statement, released on Friday, US representatives Ami Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Shri Thanedar said the safety and well-being of their constituents was their “most important priority”, and the allegations that the US justice department labelled against an Indian government official and Nikhil Gupta, an Indian citizen, “were deeply concerning”.

India Sentinels had reported on US justice department’s charges, on November 30, and a follow-up report on India’s reaction to the charges, on December 1.

In the joint statement, the Indian-American members of the US Congress said: “We appreciate the [Biden] administration providing us a classified briefing on the justice department’s indictment of Nikhil Gupta, which alleges that an Indian government official engaged in a murder-for-hire plot of an American citizen. As members of Congress, the safety and well-being of our constituents is our most important priority. The allegations made in the indictment are deeply concerning.”

It further added: “We welcome the Indian government’s announcement of a committee of enquiry to investigate the murder plot and it is critical that India fully investigate, hold those responsible, including Indian government officials, accountable, and provide assurances that this will not happen again.”

The five US representatives also expressed concern that the indictment of Nikhil Gupta and the alleged involvement of Indian state actors in the purported plot may harm India-US ties. In the statement, they said: “We believe the US – India partnership has made a meaningful impact on the lives of both of our people, but we are concerned that the actions outlined in the indictment could, if not appropriately addressed, cause significant damage to this very consequential partnership.”

In September, the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, claimed in his parliament that the Indian government was behind the killing of a Canadian Sikh, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was a prominent Khalistani separatist voice. Nijjar was gunned down near a Sikh cultural centre at Surrey in Canada’s British Columbia province by unknown assailants, in June this year.

India reacted sharply to Trudeau’s allegation and rubbished it as “absurd”. It then developed into a full-blown diplomatic row with both countries expelling envoys from each other’s diplomatic missions.

Recently, media reported that the US, Canada, and the United Kingdom have expelled India’s Research & Analysis Wing station heads and other RAW officials from their countries following their allegations that India was behind the assassination of Nijjar and an assassination attempt on Pannun. The RAW is India’s external intelligence agency.

It may be noted that the US, UK, Canada are members of the close-knit intelligence-gathering alliance called “Five Eyes” (FVEY). The other two members are Australia and New Zealand.


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