Modi promises to look into evidence of alleged Indian plot to assassinate Pannun | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
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Modi promises to look into evidence of alleged Indian plot to assassinate Pannun

Dec 20, 2023 12:54 PM IST

In his first response to the plot, Modi told the British business daily Financial Times (FT) that India was “deeply concerned about the activities of certain extremist groups based overseas”

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised to “look into” any evidence backing allegations of an Indian plot to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the United States (US) while underlining a “few incidents” would not derail ties between the two countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI)
Prime Minister Narendra Modi. (PTI)

In his first response to the allegations, Modi told the British business daily Financial Times (FT) that India was “deeply concerned about the activities of certain extremist groups based overseas”. He added that these elements have engaged in intimidation and incited violence under the guise of freedom of expression.

The comments came days after all five Indian-American members of the US Congress warned of “significant damage” to the “very consequential” India-US partnership unless New Delhi probes and holds those responsible for plotting to kill Pannun, an American-Canadian citizen whom India has designated as a terrorist.

In a joint statement, Amy Bera, Pramila Jayapal, Ro Khanna, Raja Krishnamoorthi, and Shri Thanedar sought a clear assurance from India that such an incident would never reoccur. The five, all Democrats from diverse geographies and members of key legislative panels, said the US administration provided them a classified briefing on the indictment of Nikhil Gupta in connection with the foiled plot.

The US Department of Justice in November unsealed an indictment implicating Gupta for orchestrating the plot in June. Gupta allegedly hired a hitman, who turned out to be an undercover agent for US law enforcement. India acknowledged inputs on the plot from the US and announced the constitution of a committee to examine the issue while promising necessary follow-up action.

The FT noted that concern about India’s alleged involvement in the plot has complicated the US-India relationship. US President Joe Biden has described the relationship as “among the most consequential in the world”.

Modi sought to downplay the diplomatic fallout of Gupta’s indictment for directing the attempted murder in New York. He cited strong bipartisan support for the strengthening of the relationship and said it was a clear indicator of a mature and stable partnership. “Security and counterterrorism cooperation has been a key component of our partnership,” he said. He added it was not appropriate to link a few incidents with diplomatic relations between the two countries. “If a citizen of ours has done anything good or bad, we are ready to look into it.”

Modi and Biden agreed to expand cooperation in areas ranging from high tech to defence when the Indian Prime Minister visited Washington DC for a state visit in June. Biden visited New Delhi for the G20 summit in September.

Gupta’s indictment came to light in November five months after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was investigating whether Indian “agents” were behind the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. India rejected Trudeau’s claim as “absurd” and asked 41 Canadian diplomats to leave the country.

The FT noted the US and Canadian cases have raised alarm among India’s Western partners about New Delhi’s possible role in extrajudicial killings although they have done little to hurt Modi at home, where he faces a national election in 2024. It added despite growing closer to the US, Modi has continued to build a relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin despite Western pressure.

FT said that India has taken a harder stance against China, with which New Delhi has been engaged in a long-running border dispute.

Modi underlined the need to accept the era of multilateralism. “The world is interconnected as well as interdependent. This reality compels us to recognise that absolute agreement on all matters cannot be a prerequisite for collaboration,” he told FT.

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