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'Unwarranted, unsubstantiated imputations': India reacts to US report on Pannun case

A report by the Washington Post named the Indian official, a former RAW chief, who was allegedly involved in the foiled assassination bid on Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. India has vehemently denied its involvement in the case, saying it goes against its official policy.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Updated on: April 30, 2024 10:20 IST
India, Khalistani terrorist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Pannun case
Image Source : AP (FILE) India-designated Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun

New Delhi: The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Tuesday reacted strongly to a report by a US newspaper The Washington Post, which claimed that a RAW officer was involved in the foiled assassination bid of India-designated Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, based in New York. India said the report 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," said MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal.

What does the report say on Pannun case?

The report by the Washington Post claimed that an officer in India's spy wing, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) had relayed final instructions to a "hired hit team" to carrying out the assassination of the Khalistani separatist, who has threatened numerous attacks against India. As soon as the would-be assassins could confirm that Pannun was home, "it would be a go ahead from us", it added.

The newspaper further said US spy agencies had assessed the Indian National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval was probably aware of RAW's plans to kill Pannun, but no official proof had emerged. The agencies said the assassination bid was allegedly approved by the RAW chief under pressure to eliminate Sikh extremists overseas. The report further claimed that the RAW officer collaborated with the Indian national Nikhil Gupta to assassinate Pannun and spent weeks trading encrypted texts.

The foiled murder plot surfaced after the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, which soured relations between New Delhi and Ottawa when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly alleged India's involvement in the murder. The report claimed that the US has refrained from punitive responses to avoid ruptures in its relations with India. As such, there would be no expulsions of RAW officers or economic sanctions against India.

Countries should not cross 'red lines': US

Amid India's concerns over the allegations levelled by the US over the alleged foiled killing attempt of Pannun, US Ambassador to India, Eric Garcetti, recently said that both nations have been working together in the investigation but emphasised that the countries should not cross the "red lines". The US envoy said no government employee of any country can be involved in an assassination plot of a foreign citizen.

"Any country, having an active member of their government involved in a second country trying to assassinate one of their citizens. That's, I think, usually a red line for any country. That's a basic issue of sovereignty. That's a basic issue of rights," he said. When asked about the deportation requests for Pannun made by the Indian government, Garcetti opined that "an American citizen can be convicted or deported only according to the country's laws."

In response, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said India's own national security interests are involved in the matter. "The position of my government is that in this particular case, there has been certain information provided to us which we are investigating," he said. India had set an inquiry commission to look into the matter.

As per the US Justice Department indictment, an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, who is currently in custody, has been charged with the murder-for-hire of Pannun.  The US Justice Department had claimed that an Indian government employee, who was not identified in the indictment filed, had recruited Gupta to hire a hitman to allegedly assassinate Pannun, which was foiled by US authorities.

ALSO READ | India summons Canadian envoy after pro-Khalistan slogans raised at event addressed by PM Justin Trudeau

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