Indian gov’t official plots to kill Sikh American
NEW YORK (Reuters) — An Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist, who is also a U.S. citizen, on U.S. soil, the U.S. Justice Department said on Wednesday, in announcing charges against a man accused of orchestrating the attempted murder.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Nikhil Gupta, 52, worked with the Indian government employee, whose responsibilities included security and intelligence, on the plot to assassinate the New York City resident who advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.
Prosecutors did not name the Indian official or the target, although they did describe the latter as a U.S. citizen of Indian origin. U.S. officials have named him as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition. He could not be reached for comment.
“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.
The Indian official is described in the related indictment as a “Senior Field Officer” with responsibilities in “Security Management” and “Intelligence” employed by the Indian government who “directed the plot from India.”
The charges come after a senior Biden administration official last week said U.S. authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved.
Biden instructed CIA director Bill Burns to contact his Indian counterpart, then travel to India to deliver a message that “we will not tolerate such activities and that we expect those responsible to be held fully accountable,” a senior U.S. official said Wednesday.
Biden also raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit, where he “emphasized the seriousness of this issue and the potential repercussions for our bilateral relationship were similar threats to persist,” the official said. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Blinken also discussed the issue with India’s foreign minister.
Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines also traveled to India to aid the government in an internal investigation, the official said.
The issue is highly delicate for both India and the Biden administration as they try to build closer ties in the face of an ascendant China perceived as a threat for both democracies.
India’s Washington embassy and its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but earlier on Wednesday India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi would formally investigate the concerns aired by the United States.
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