Murder for Hire

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Indian government agents were involved in a murder plot against a Sikh-American activist in New York, according to India’s probe into claims made by the US, Bloomberg reported Thursday.

At least one of the people named in the investigation is no longer employed by India’s primary spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing. The individual continues to work as a civil servant in the absence of a formal prosecution, officials said.

The results of the government-appointed panel haven’t been published yet but were shared with US authorities, who demanded that the suspects be charged.

In June 2023, Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen whom New Delhi considers a terrorist, was the target of an assassination attempt in New York. The US government accused an Indian intelligence agent of instructing Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national with connections in the criminal world, to hire a hitman to kill Pannun.

Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic the same month and now awaits an extradition ruling by the country’s top court, India’s The Wire reported.

At a US congressional hearing on Wednesday, Donald Lu, a US assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, said the government had urged India to “work quickly and transparently to make sure justice is done.”

Nonetheless, the case put the US in an awkward position as President Joe Biden’s administration has sought to strengthen relations with India amid competition with China for influence in Asia. Since news of the murder plot emerged, US officials have visited India to discuss matters such as trade in an effort to curb China’s assertiveness in the region.

Meanwhile, the murder of a Sikh separatist in Canada has caused a diplomatic rift between Ottawa and New Delhi after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused India of orchestrating assassination plots abroad. India denied the claims and reduced its diplomatic staff in Canada, with negative impacts on Indian nationals applying for visas to the North American country.

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