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Pannun “murder plot”: India dismisses Washington Post’s report

Pannun “murder plot”: India dismisses Washington Post’s report

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Virendra Pandit

New Delhi: The External Affairs Ministry on Tuesday dismissed a report by the Washington Post, that claimed an Indian spy agency’s alleged involvement in a failed murder attempt against US-based Khalistani terrorist-separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The newspaper even named a Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official who it claimed orchestrated the purported murder plot.

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

“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 organized criminals, terrorists, and others. Speculative and irresponsible comments on it are not helpful,” he added.

The Washington Post report claimed that an officer of the foreign intelligence agency of India, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), instructed a hired hit team to kill Pannun.

The report said R&AW officer Vikram Yadav allegedly instructed the hit team to eliminate Pannuun, the legal counsel of Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), who is also a prominent leader of the separatist movement. “US intelligence agencies have assessed that the operation targeting Pannun was approved by the R&AW chief at the time, Samant Goel,” the report said.

It also said that Yadav was transferred back to the Central Reserve Police Forces (CRPF) following the unraveling of the Pannun plot.
The US officials indicted one Nikhil Gupta for the plot and said he was acting at the behest of an Indian official who was named as CC-1 in the indictment. Gupta was detained last year by Czech and American agencies and remained in a Prague jail.

The government formed a high-level committee to investigate the matter in November 2023 after the US shared information about the role of the Indian official.

The Washington Post claimed that Vikram Yadav was on deputation from CRPF and had allegedly forwarded details of Pannun, including his address in New York. It also claimed that Yadav “lacked the training and skills” needed for the operation that involved going head-to-head against sophisticated US counter-intelligence capabilities.

Interestingly, the newspaper painted Pannun and his Khalistani associates as ‘dissidents’ while overlooking the rising cases of extremism and intimidation against members of the Indian diaspora and even Sikhs and Punjabis in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, among other countries, who do not support the Khalistanis.

The Western governments have conveniently turned Nelson’s eye to the violent Khalistani extremists who have used their soil to foment anti-India sentiments.

The newspaper also said that senior US Department of Justice and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) would have implicated R&AW in a murder-for-hire conspiracy. “But while a US indictment unsealed in November contained the bombshell allegation that the plot was directed by an Indian official, it referred to Yadav as only an unnamed co-conspirator, CC-1, and made no mention of the Indian spy agency,” the report said.

“Higher-ranking R&AW officials have also been implicated, according to current and former Western security officials, as part of a sprawling investigation by the CIA, FBI, and other agencies that have mapped potential links to Prime Minister Modi’s inner circle,” the report added.

Several cases of members of the Indian diaspora being intimidated have been reported and Khalistani separatists also attacked Indian consulates and embassy offices in San Francisco and London respectively.

The report also falsely claimed that the terrorists killed in Pakistan were “separatists living in exile” and indicated as if Indian officials were responsible for these killings, a claim also first put forward by UK’s The Guardian.


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