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Global Media Focuses on India-US Ties in Reports on US Indictment on Indian Officials' 'Murder Plot'

'In most cases, if Washington accuses a foreign government of staging an assassination on its soil, U.S. relations with that government would plunge into crisis.'
Illustration: The Wire, with Canva

New Delhi: The news of United States’ federal prosecutors filing charges alleging that an ‘identified Indian government employee’ had directed a plot to assassinate a US citizen was reported far and wide, on papers across the US and Canada.

The latter had been the first to drop a bombshell allegation against India, alleging government hand in the killing of pro-Khalistan activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen.

Days ago, the Financial Times had first reported that US prosecutors had filed this sealed indictment in the case.

The New York Times called the alleged plan a “murder-for-hire scheme” and noted its possible pitfalls.

“Together, the charges announced in New York and the earlier slaying threaten to complicate relations among the United States, Canada and India and could hurt President Biden’s efforts to cultivate Indian leaders in a bid to counter the global influence of China and Russia,” the report says.

It then notes, from prosecutors’ accounts, that there are five major takeaways of the plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, head of the ‘Sikhs for Justice’ NGO in the US.

Among them is the claim that an Indian official, not named in the indictment, but “employed by the Indian government as a ‘senior field officer’ with responsibilities in ‘security management’ and ‘intelligence,'” drove the plot.

The Washington Post added the claim from the indictment that, “In June, the Indian government employee gave Gupta the home address of Pannun, his phone numbers and details about his daily conduct, including surveillance photos, which Gupta passed along to the undercover DEA agent…”

Also read: From Nijjar to Pannun, Modi Government’s Recklessness is Undermining National Interest

The paper quotes Michael Kugelman, director of the Wilson Center’s South Asia Institute, told the paper that the US’s dependence on India when it comes to the China problem is going to be a balm at this time.

“In most cases, if Washington accuses a foreign government of staging an assassination on its soil, U.S. relations with that government would plunge into crisis. But the relationship with India is a special case. … It’s notable that once the administration found out, it didn’t scale down engagement with India. High-level meetings went on as scheduled,” he said.

‘Three such killings’

Canada’s CBC noted that “[p]erhaps the most surprising allegation in the murder-for-hire indictment filed in New York state against Indian national Nikhil Gupta is a claim that there were plans to carry out three such killings on Canadian soil.”

In addition to details of the indictment that The Wire has reported on, the CBC report says the plan to kill Pannu “changed on June 18,” when masked gunmen murdered Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia, according to the indictment, which adds that this made the killing a “priority.”

The report mentions how the indictment has it that the Indian official, in a phone call, allegedly noted that a different hitman had handled it and said: “We didn’t give to [the undercover officer] this job, so some other guy did this job … in Canada.”

The AFP news agency quoted Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau as having said that “the news coming out of the United States further underscores what we’ve been talking about from the very beginning, which is that India needs to take this seriously.”

“The Indian government needs to work with us to ensure that we’re getting to the bottom of this,” he said.

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