‘Unsubstantiated’: India slams Washington Post report on Gurpatwant Pannun murder plot

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India on Tuesday said a report by The Washington Post about alleged plots by Indian officials to assassinate pro-Khalistan activists in the US and Canada makes “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” on a serious issue.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal. (ANI Photo)

The Post’s report, published on Monday, had focused on an alleged plot to kill Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) leader Gurpatwant Pannun on American soil and the killing of pro-Khalistan activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in the Canadian town of Surrey last year. It also named a Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) officer, seconded to the country’s external intelligence agency, as the person responsible for overseeing the alleged plot to kill Pannun, declared a terrorist by India.

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“The report in question makes unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter,” external affairs ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said in a statement.

Referring to a high-level inquiry committee set up by the Indian side to look into inputs provided by the US regarding the alleged plot against Pannun, Jaiswal said the probe by this body was still underway.

“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,” he said.

An indictment filed by US prosecutors in a Manhattan court last November alleged that Indian national Nikhil Gupta, acting on the instructions of an Indian official identified only as ‘CC-1’, was involved in a plot to kill Pannun on American soil.

Gupta is currently in jail in the Czech Republic, where the justice minister is examining his challenge to a court ruling that he can be extradited to the US.

Several media outlets, including HT, had earlier reported that the official identified as ‘CC-1’ has already been moved out of the external intelligence agency and sent back to the CRPF. Several other mid-ranking officials have also been reshuffled within the intelligence agency, according to people familiar with the matter.

Citing unnamed senior officials, Bloomberg had reported that an Indian investigation had concluded that “rogue operatives not authorised by the government had been involved in the plot”.

The alleged plot against Pannun has emerged as an irritant in an otherwise robust India-US relationship that now encompasses collaboration on critical emerging technologies, joint development of military hardware and close cooperation on defence and security issues.

The US has pressed India to prosecute those involved in the plot, and this was a message conveyed to Indian officials by Donald Lu, the assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian affairs, when he visited New Delhi in January.

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