US Charges Indian National In Plot To Kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun; New Delhi Sets Probe Following CIA Pressure

US Charges Indian National In Plot To Kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun; New Delhi Sets Probe Following CIA Pressure

According to the BBC, Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, was charged on a murder for hire plot in New York which, prosecutors said, was orchestrated from India.

V SudarshanUpdated: Thursday, November 30, 2023, 11:06 AM IST
article-image
US Charges Indian National In Plot To Kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun; New Delhi Sets Probe Following CIA Pressure |

In a day of quick developments, an Indian national was charged in New York on a murder for hire plot, the Washinton Post revealed that the CIA director went to New Delhi to bring pressure to investigate a plot to murder Khalistani separatist, Gurpwatwant Singh Pannun, and the Ministry of External Affairs post haste announced that a committee has been probing this matter for ten days now.

According to the BBC, Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national, was charged on a murder for hire plot in New York which, prosecutors said, was orchestrated from India. His indictment says Mr Gupta was involved in international narcotics and weapons trafficking before he was allegedly recruited by an Indian government official in May to pursue the assassination of the target.

It alleges Mr Gupta was directed by the official to contact an associate in the US about potential assassination plans. Mr Gupta, it says, had intended to meet a hitman who could murder his target in New York City.

Gupta Agreed To Pay An Undercover Agent $100,000 For Pannun's Assasination

Instead, court documents say, the source introduced him to an undercover law enforcement officer who said he would assassinate the target for $100,000.

Mr Gupta paid $15,000 upfront via an associate on 9 June, the indictment alleges. Authorities in the Czech Republic arrested Mr Gupta on 30 June shortly after US prosecutors released an initial indictment against him. They are still detaining him at the US's request, according to court documents.

Although the target of the alleged assassination plot was not named in the documents, American authorities emphasised that he was a US leader in a Sikh separatist group.

Earlier in the day, hours after the Washington Post filed a story saying the CIA Director as well as the Director of National Intelligence flew to Delhi to press it to further the investigation into the plot to kill, on American soil, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, general counsel for Sikhs for Justice the Ministry of External Affairs on Wednesday revealed that a "high level committee" had been set up to "to look into the relevant aspects".

After the plot to assassinate Pannun was foiled, following the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, Canada, the CIA Director William J. Burns flew to India in August.

Then the Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines flew to Delhi in October, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday quoting unnamed sources.

American NSA Visits India

The Post says, “Gupta allegedly conspired with a number of others, at least one of whom is believed to be an official in India.” When the Biden administration learned of the plot against Pannun, says the Post, it triggered “a concerted effort to raise the matter with senior Indian government officials. In early August, national security adviser Jake Sullivan brought his concerns to his counterpart, Ajit Doval, in person during a meeting in another country in the region.” The NSA's office has oversight into all operations that intelligence agencies conduct both within and ourside the country. Sources who have held senior operational positions in intelligence agencies say that without clearance "at the highest level" operations can't go forward.

The American NSA Sullivan, Post reports quoting a senior administration official, "underscored that India needed to investigate (the plot) and hold those responsible, accountable, and that the United States needed an assurance that this would not happen again.”

Days later, Burns flew to India to deliver the same message to RAW Chief, Ravi Sinha. Then President Biden himself, in a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit in September, stressed the seriousness of the issue “and the potential repercussions for the bilateral relationship were similar threats to persist,” the official said.

America Raises Issue On Jaishankar's US Visit

In September, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Sullivan raised the issue again when Jaishankar visited Washington. And in October, Haines went to India to “share information about the plot with the government to aid its probe”, officials said. The statement that has been hastily published in the MEA website noted that the committee had been set up on November 18, eleven days ago.The statement did not give out details of the composition of the committee and what the time frame was for them to come to a determination, although the statement said, Government of India will take necessary follow-up action based on the findings of the Enquiry Committee.

It is unlikely that such a committee could have been instituted without the concurrence of the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The White House National Security Council spokesman Adrienne Watson had, on the heels of the publication of the FT report, stressed "We will have more to say about it in the coming days. We have conveyed our expectation that anyone deemed responsible should be held accountable.”

Given the unremitting American pressure on this matter, it is likely that the high level committee would have representatives from the various security agencies, including the NIA and the CBI, as well as the office of the National Security Adviser, and since the Ministry of External Affairs is fronting it, a representative from the South Block as well.

The American moves through deliberate leaks in the media come two moanths after the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the New Delhi of involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, leader of the Khalistan Tiger Force, this June in Surrey, British Columbia. The technical intelligence in that case was provided by the Americans. The Americans initially fired from Canada's shoulder on the matter of New Delhi's approach to the issue Khalistan separatists. In terms of intelligence objectives both the American and Canadian aspects are inextricably interlinked and could come as a severe embarassment to New Delhi for sloppy intelligence practices and lopsided priorities. The attempt is now to explain matters in a manner that is acceptable to the Americans, and by implication, the Canadians.

Interestingly in what could be a pointer to the quality of work done by Indian intelligence agencies, Time Magazine, in a recent interview with Pannun, claimed that it "viewed INTERPOL letters dated August 22 that reject terrorism charges levelled against Pannun by the Indian government." Time did not provide a more detailed explanation, in terms of who rejected the charges or on what grounds. It is the NIA that prepares the Red Corner Notices that the CBI delivers to the INTERPOL.

The developments are sure to have a cascading effect on intelligence co-operation not only between New Delhi and the US, but also other members of the Five Eyes and those allies in Europe where large Sikh diaspora is present.

RECENT STORIES

Exploring The Intersection Of Art And Sustainability

Exploring The Intersection Of Art And Sustainability

Scary! Pakistani Man Caught On CCTV Trying To Kidnap Girl; Minor Manages To Escape After Raising...

Scary! Pakistani Man Caught On CCTV Trying To Kidnap Girl; Minor Manages To Escape After Raising...

President Mohamed Muizzu’s Party Secures 'Supermajority' In Maldives Parliamentary Elections

President Mohamed Muizzu’s Party Secures 'Supermajority' In Maldives Parliamentary Elections

Kuwait Launches First Hindi Radio Broadcast; Indian Embassy Says Move Will Strengthen Bilateral Ties

Kuwait Launches First Hindi Radio Broadcast; Indian Embassy Says Move Will Strengthen Bilateral Ties

US Mass Shooting Video: 2 Dead, 14 Hospitalised After Block Party Turns Deadly In Memphis (VIDEO)

US Mass Shooting Video: 2 Dead, 14 Hospitalised After Block Party Turns Deadly In Memphis (VIDEO)