US charges Indian man with conspiracy to kill Khalistani separatist in New York

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  • An Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist, who is also a U.S. citizen, on U.S. soil, the U.S. Justice Department said.  
  • Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Nikhil Gupta, 52, worked with the Indian government employee, whose responsibilities included security and intelligence, on the plot to assassinate the New York City resident who advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India. 
  • Prosecutors did not name the Indian official or the target, although they did describe the latter as a U.S. citizen of Indian origin.  
  • U.S. officials have named him Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual citizen of the United States and Canada. Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition. 
  • The charges come after a senior Biden administration official said U.S. authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved. 

The United States has charged an Indian national with conspiring to assassinate a U.S. citizen who advocated for a sovereign state for Sikhs, the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan said on Wednesday.

Nikhil Gupta was arrested by Czech authorities in June and is awaiting extradition. He could not be reached for comment.

“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.

The charges come after a senior Biden administration official last week said U.S. authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved.

The official said Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who says he is a dual citizen of the United States and Canada, was the target of the foiled plot.

Prosecutors did not name the target of Gupta’s alleged plot, who they described as a vocal critic of the Indian government who leads a U.S.-based organization that advocates for the secession of India’s Punjab state, which is home to a large population of Sikhs.

News of the incident comes two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb, something India has rejected.

The issue is highly delicate for both India and the Biden administration as they try to build closer ties in the face of an ascendant China perceived as a threat to both democracies.

India’s Washington embassy and its foreign ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment, but earlier on Wednesday India’s foreign ministry said New Delhi would formally investigate the concerns aired by the United States.

The U.S. started voicing its concerns and related details to Modi’s government as early as April, an Indian official who is aware of the matter, but not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters. The official said the issue was also discussed on Nov. 10, when Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met their counterparts in the Indian capital for the so-called 2+2 dialogue.

(With inputs from agencies)

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