U.S. ‘working with India’ to probe report on Pannun

U.S. ‘working with India’ to probe report on Pannun

‘We continue to expect accountability from the Government of India based on the results of the Indian inquiry committee’s work’, says State Department

The U.S. expects “accountability” and is raising concerns over the Pannun case with New Delhi regularly, said the State Department, responding for the first time to the latest details reported by TheWashington Post this week. Both the White House and the State department have responded to the report, that named an Indian intelligence official for allegedly ordering the assassination of a Khalistani activist in New York in June 2023, and also claimed that U.S. authorities believe that the R&AW chief and National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval were aware of the plot.

“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 enquiring for additional updates,” said Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the State Department, Vedant Patel, in response to a question about the Post’s article, where he didn’t deny its content. “We’ll also continue to raise our concerns directly with the Indian Government at senior levels,” he added, deferring to the U.S. Department of Justice, which has been investigating the alleged plot and filed an indictment in the case in November 2023, based on evidence including phone transcripts, photographs and the use of an undercover officer and an informant. The indictment against an Indian businessman Nikhil Gupta is expected to go to trial this summer, and is awaiting the extradition of Mr. Gupta, who denies the charges, who is in custody in the Czech Republic.

“This is a serious matter, and we’re taking that very, very seriously,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, also taking note of The Washington Post report, adding that the U.S. was going to continue to raise its concerns.

‘Speculative comments’

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has also not explicitly denied the Post article, that was published on Monday, but said that it made “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter” and that “speculative and irresponsible comments” were not “helpful”.

“There is an ongoing investigation of the high-level committee set up by the Government of India to look into the security concerns shared by the U.S. government on networks of organised criminals, terrorists and others,” MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said. The government has not so far disclosed the composition of the committee, and has not confirmed media reports that it had presented its report holding a “rogue agent” responsible for the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Khalistani activist wanted on terror charges in India under the UAPA. India continues to maintain that it is not “government policy” to conduct such transnational killings, but that it has raised strongly with the U.S., Canada and other countries its concerns over Khalistani separatist groups that target Indian diplomats and consulates in different parts of the world.

The allegations about the aborted attempt plot to kill Pannun as well as further allegations that India’s intelligence agents also ordered the killing of Canada-based Sikh activist wanted in India, outside Toronto, were first made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressing the Canadian Parliament in September last year. India has more categorically denied those charges, that have led to a sharp downturn in India-Canada ties, and the government says that the Canadian government has not shared any evidence in the matter with it.

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