US says it will continue to ‘raise concerns directly’ with Indian govt over alleged Pannun plot

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WASHINGTON: The United States has reiterated its stance on seeking accountability from the Indian government in relation to the ongoing investigation into the alleged assassination plot of Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New York.

Principal Deputy Spokesperson for the US Department of State, Vedant Patel, on Tuesday said that there is an ongoing dialogue and that the US expects accountability from the Indian authorities. Principal Deputy Spokesperson Vedant Patel was asked about the recent news article by The Washington Post, which named Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official’s involvement in the alleged plot to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the US.

Addressing the White House briefing, Patel said, “So 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 inquiring for additional updates.” Patel further affirmed, “We’ll also continue to raise our concerns directly with the Indian government at senior levels…”

The said report was rejected earlier in the day by the Ministry of External Affairs. The Washington Post report had named Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official’s involvement in the alleged post to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the US.

Describing it as an “unwarranted and unsubstantiated” imputation on a “serious matter” that is under investigation, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal on Tuesday said the US media report was “speculative and irresponsible”.

In response to media queries on the report that appeared in Washington Post, a US national daily, Jaiswal said that a High-Level Committee set up by the Indian government is carrying out an investigation into the security concerns shared by the US government on networks of organized criminals, terrorists, and others.

“The report in question makes unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter. 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 US government on networks of organised criminals, terrorists and others. Speculative and irresponsible comments on it are not helpful.”

Citing officials and a US indictment, the Washington Post report claimed that the RAW official identified as Vikram Yadav had directed Indian businessman Nikhil Gupta, now in custody in the Czech Republic pending extradition to the US to stand trial in the case, to hire a hitman to kill GS Pannun outside his New York residence. As per the report in the US daily, the operation targeting Pannun was approved by then-RAW chief Samant Goel.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is an India-designated terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship. Earlier in November, the US Justice Department unsealed an indictment against an Indian national for his alleged involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate Pannun.

As per the US Justice Department indictment, Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, who is currently in custody, has been charged with the murder-for-hire of Pannun.

The US Justice Department has claimed that Indian government employee (named CC-1), who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by US authorities, according to prosecutors.

Gupta is currently in custody and has been charged with murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Czech authorities had arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.

Following this, MEA said that a case filed against an individual in a US court and allegedly linking him to an Indian official is a “matter of concern” and is contrary to government policy. India has also set up a high-level committee to probe the matter.

Reacting to the US Justice Department’s indictment in November 2023, the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson had said, “We cannot share any further information on such security matters. As regards the case against an individual that has been filed in a US court allegedly linking him to an Indian official, this is a matter of concern. We have said and let me reiterate that this is contrary to government policy.”

“The nexus between organised crime, trafficking and gun running and extremists at an international level is a serious issue for law enforcement agencies and organisations to consider and it is precisely for that reason that a high-level committee has been constituted and we will obviously be guided by its results”, the spokesperson said. (ANI)

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