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'India is a strategic partner but...': White House on 'foiled murder plot' of Khalistani terrorist

The US commended India for taking the matter regarding the 'foiled murder plot' seriously and reiterated that it wants the case fully investigated and the accused held accountable. Meanwhile, FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to visit New Delhi next week to discuss the matter.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: December 08, 2023 9:36 IST
US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on
Image Source : AP US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby on Thursday.

The White House on Thursday asserted that India is a strategic partner for the United States, but reiterated calls urging New Delhi to hold those responsible for a failed assassination plot of Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun responsible.

The case pertains to earlier reports that claimed that the US thwarted a plan aimed towards the assassination of Pannun and warned India over concerns that it was involved in the plot. Recently, federal prosecutors and the US Department of Justice indicted an Indian official for the alleged murder attempt.

“India is a strategic partner. We're deepening that strategic partnership. They're a member of the Quad in the Pacific. We participate with them on a range of issues and we want to see that continue unabated. That said, at the same time, we certainly recognise the seriousness of these allegations,” said US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby at a regular press conference on Thursday.

The White House reiterated that it wants the case fully investigated and the accused held accountable for their actions, while commending India for taking the matter seriously. "It's under active investigation. We've said that we're glad that our Indian counterparts are taking it seriously and doing that. We want those responsible for these attacks to be held fully accountable, but I won't get ahead of an investigation that isn't complete," he said.

Who was indicted in the US for the murder attempt?

Earlier last week, US federal prosecutors indicted Nikhil Gupta, 52, for working with an Indian government employee in the foiled plot to kill Pannun. The US prosecutors informed a Manhattan court that authorities in the Czech Republic arrested and detained Gupta -- a claim that the Indian official vehemently rejected but raised "grave concerns" over the matter.

According to the US Department of Justice, Gupta is an Indian national and was an associate of CC-1, who hired Gupta to carry out the task. Not much is known yet about him, except that he was arrested and detained by Czech authorities on June 30 this year "pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic".

In response, India said that the individual, who has been indicted in the United States for the failed assassination plot of a Khalistani leader in New York, has been linked to an Indian official, which is "a matter of concern" and asserted that this was against the policy of the Indian government.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had earlier welcomed India's decision to set up a high-level committee to probe the involvement of an Indian national in the foiled plot. "A number of us have raised this directly with the Indian Government in the past weeks. The government announced today that it was conducting an investigation, and that's good and appropriate, and we look forward to seeing the results," he said in late November.

The White House also assured that the case will not impact the growing relationship between India and the US, assuring that it will work to improve and strengthen the strategic partnership with New Delhi. Kirby also noted that the US came to know about the plot after the historic visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Washington in June to meet President Joe Biden.

FBI director to visit India

After US Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer recently raised the Pannun case with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Indian NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra in New Delhi, the Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray is set to visit India amid the probe.

The latest announcement from US envoy to India Eric Garcetti came during an event in New Delhi, where he claimed America is giving top priority to India. "There’s a great awakening in America. It’s happening in business and government, where everybody’s like ‘I got to understand India," said Garcetti.

“This was the Number 1 country she [US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen] went to outside the United States. Four times this year. The Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] just came here for the third time. Secretary of Defense [Lloyd Austin] for the second time. The FBI director is here next week," he announced.

(with inputs from PTI)

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