India’s Spy Chief Cleared Plot to Kill Sikh Activist, Post Says

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An alleged plot to kill a US citizen and Sikh activist on American soil last year was approved by senior-level members of India’s intelligence agency, including its chief at the time, the Washington Post reported, citing people familiar with the matter it didn’t identify.

The alleged plan to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun was cleared by the former head of the Research and Analysis Wing, India’s spy agency, while other high-ranking RAW officials have also been implicated, the newspaper reported Monday.

US intelligence agencies also tentatively found that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national security adviser was probably aware of RAW’s plan, although officials told the newspaper there was no smoking gun evidence that’s emerged.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the report when contacted by Bloomberg News.

The allegations in the Post run counter to the findings from India’s high-level committee set up to investigate the case. The findings haven’t been made public, however Bloomberg News previously reported the committee found rogue operatives not authorized by the government were involved in the plot.

In its report, the Post named the agent who allegedly directed the assassination, as well as the chief of RAW at the time and Modi’s security adviser. The newspaper wasn’t able to contact the agent, and the other two people didn’t respond to calls or text messages, it said.

News of the alleged plot against Pannun, which US officials said was thwarted, followed the June shooting death in Canada of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. That operation was also linked to the RAW, the Post reported. India has described both men as terrorists.

So far, only one person had been publicly charged in connection with the alleged plot against Pannun: Nikhil Gupta, an alleged middleman who was tasked with hiring a contract killer to assassinate Pannun, according to a US indictment. Gupta, an Indian national, was arrested in Prague last year and US officials are seeking his extradition.

News of the alleged plot against Pannun have presented a challenge for Biden administration officials, who have been working to cultivate India as a partner in the region as a counterweight to China. Since the case came to light, officials in both India and the US have downplayed the significance of the allegations and have continued to hold high-profile meetings on trade and other issues.

US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said recently he was pleased with India’s progress in its investigation, and the issue wouldn’t hamper relations between the two countries.

--With assistance from Sudhi Ranjan Sen.

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