WASHINGTON: Secretary of State Tony Blinken has raised the matter of an assassination bid on prominent Sikh leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York with India’s foreign minister, a spokesperson for the State Department said Wednesday.
According to a report, Matthew Miller said that Washington has conveyed to New Delhi that it was taking the matter very seriously.
When asked about the assassination attempt on the Sikh leader, Miller said it would not be appropriate for him to comment until the Department of Justice completed its investigations. He also said that India was also investigating the matter.
When his attention was drawn to the fact that India had not yet cooperated with the investigations into the murder of a Sikh leader in Canada and when he was asked how hopeful he was that India would now cooperate with the US, the State Department spokesperson said his country had told India to cooperate with Canada’s investigations and was waiting for Indian investigations into the Indian conspiracy in America.
He said there couldn’t be speculation about India’s cooperation until the investigations were complete. He refused to go beyond indictment details when asked if India had attacked US sovereignty.
The US law enforcement authorities announced filing a “murder-for-hire” charge against Indian national Nikhil Gupta in what they said was a “foiled plot to assassinate” pro-Khalistan leader Pannun allegedly supervised by an Indian government official.
Sources said Indian national Gupta is a veteran agent working for the Indian spy agency RAW.
The US indictment said that Gupta, an Indian national residing in India, “is an associate of CC-1, and has described his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking in his communications with CC-1 and others” and that he was being directed by the Indian government official to kill Pannun, who is Sikhs For Justice’s (SFJ) founder and spokesman of Khalistan Referendum.
Shortly after the indictment was unsealed, the White House said it had raised the issue with the Indian government at the most senior levels. It added that Indian officials responded with “surprise and concern”.
“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,” US Attorney Damian Williams said.
“We will not tolerate efforts to assassinate US citizens on US soil,” he added.
Sikhs are a religious minority that makes up about 2% of India’s population. Some groups have long called for a separate homeland for Sikhs.
The Indian government has often reacted sharply to demands by Sikh separatists in Western countries for Khalistan, or a separate homeland.
Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau jad accused India of recent remarks accusing India of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination which soured the relations between the nations.
Trudeau claimed that there are “credible allegations of a potential link” between the murder of Khalistani leader Nijjar in June and Indian government agents.
New Delhi, however, dismissed the allegations as “absurd”, and asked Canada instead to crack down on anti-India elements operating in its territory.
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