White House spokesperson Adrienne Watson said, India expressed “surprise and concern” after learning about its alleged involvement in a plot to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
India stated that activity of “this nature was not their policy”, Watson was reported as quoting.
“We understand the Indian government is further investigating this issue and will have more to say about it in the coming days. We have conveyed our expectation that anyone deemed responsible should be held accountable,” Watson said.
The US government has raised the matter with the Indian government at the senior-most level, and it is being treated with “utmost seriousness”, the White House spokesperson further said.
This development came after the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said that it had received “some inputs” from the US during a recent discussion on security matters about a “nexus” between organised criminals, terrorists and others. The statement by MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, however, did not mention where the nexus operated.
India’s statement was in response to UK-based newspaper the Financial Times’s report that claimed the US “thwarted a conspiracy to assassinate” Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil.
A leader of the US-based Sikhs for Justice, Pannun holds dual US-Canadian citizenship. India has designated Sikhs for Justice as a terrorist outfit.
In its statement, MEA said, “During the course of recent discussions on India-US security cooperation, the US side shared some inputs pertaining to nexus between organised criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others. The inputs are a cause of concern for both countries, and they decided to take the necessary follow-up action.”
He added that India takes such inputs seriously since it impinges on the country’s national security interests too. “Issues in the context of US inputs are already being examined by relevant departments,” Bagchi added.
The report also claimed that US federal prosecutors had filed a sealed indictment (formal accusation in court, contents not made public) against at least one suspect in the alleged assassination attempt against Pannun in a New York district court.
The report comes after Pannun recently asked Sikhs not to fly Air India on and after November 19, claiming there was a threat to their lives. He also threatened that Air India would not be allowed to run globally.
He, however, said that his message was to “boycott Air India not bomb”. He added that he would allow the US government to respond to threats “to my life on the American soil from Indian operatives”.
Pannun’s message comes against the historical backdrop of the 1985 bombing of an India-bound Air India flight that was flying from Canada. As many as 329 people on board the aircraft were killed, and Sikh militants were blamed for the attack.