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U.S. media names Indian official who allegedly ordered plot on Gurpatwant Singh Pannun
THE HINDU

U.S. media names Indian official who allegedly ordered plot on Gurpatwant Singh Pannun

According to Washington Post, R&AW official Vikram Yadav directed businessman Nikhil Gupta, now in custody in the Czech Republic, to hire a hitman to kill Pannun outside his New York residence; it says NSA Ajit Doval was ‘probably aware of RAW’s plans to kill Sikh activists’

U.S. authorities believe the alleged plot to kill Khalistani activist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is wanted on terror charges in India, was ordered by the previous chief of the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), and had official sanction from senior intelligence officials with “with ties to [Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s inner circle”, the Washington Post, a U.S.-national daily, reported.

Escalating campaign

The report in the Washington Post newspaper identified, for the first time, an R&AW officer whose name had been withheld in the case papers made available by the Justice Department in New York in November 2023. In a separate press release, the Post said, on the basis of interviews with “more than three dozen current and former senior officials in the United States, India, Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia”, that other R&AW officers have faced “arrest, expulsion and reprimand” in recent months, indicating that there was more international coordination about what it called “escalating campaign of aggression” against Indian diaspora members by India’s intelligence operatives.

The Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the latest story in the Washington Post report on Monday. Last week, in response to a question on the allegations, the MEA spokesperson said that a “high-level committee is looking into information that was shared by the American side with us, because [it] also equally impacts our national security. In recent weeks, the government has also blocked the broadcast of documentaries by Canadian and Australian public broadcasters CBC and ABC that focussed on the allegations against Indian agencies for targeting Khalistani activists abroad.

“In reports that have been closely held within the American government, U.S. intelligence officials have assessed that the operation targeting Pannun was approved by the RAW chief at the time, Samant Goel,” said the report. “U.S. spy agencies have more tentatively assessed that Mr. Modi’s National Security Adviser, Ajit Doval, was probably aware of RAW’s plans to kill Sikh activists,” it added.

‘Not our policy’

According to the story, the R&AW official identified as Vikram Yadav had directed Indian businessman Nikhil Gupta, now in custody in the Czech Republic pending extradition to the U.S. to stand trial in the case, to hire a hitman to kill GS Pannun outside his New York residence. Mr. Yadav, believed to be a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) official on deputation to the R&AW, has subsequently been repatriated to the paramilitary forces, other U.S. media have reported.

While the MEA Ministry of External Affairs has maintained that such killings are not Indian policy, and has denied Canadian allegations of a similar hit on Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, the government has agreed to an enquiry on the U.S. allegations.

The Washington Post story also dwells at length on differences between the U.S. White House administration and the Justice Department that oversaw the FBI-DEA investigation in the case.

The evidence cited had included an undercover American agent who was hired for the Pannun killing by Mr. Gupta, under direct orders from Mr. Yadav, surveillance of messages purportedly exchanged between them, as well as a photograph allegedly showing three Indian intelligence officials who gave the green signal for the plot during a video-call.

However, the report stated while the Justice Department pushed for an indictment against both Mr. Gupta and Mr. Yadav, Biden administration officials prevailed in ensuring the indictment is against only Mr. Gupta at present, ostensibly so as not to “rupture” ties with India.

The matter was thrashed out a series of meetings which included U.S. Deputy NSA Jon Finer, U.S. Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Deputy CIA Director David Cohen, the report said. It also stated Mr. President Biden had discussed the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during their meeting in September 2023, calling for accountability for the case.


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