Pannun murder plot: US senators seek strong response from govt over alleged India involvement

Senators write letter on "credible allegations" of Indian govt’s involvement in plot to kill US citizen on its soil

Web Desk
US President Joe Biden speaks with Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit opening session in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, on November 15, 2022. —Reuters
  • Senators say those involved in threats should be held accountable. 
  • Senator Bernard Sanders is among those who wrote letter to Blinken.
  • US must be firm, resolute in opposing transnational repression: letter. 

Expressing grave reservations over allegations of Indian government’s involvement in a foiled plot to assassinate an American citizen on US soil, five senators demanded the Biden administration for a strong diplomatic response to ensure all those involved in "harassment and threats" against Sikh Americans are held accountable. 

In a letter to the US Department of State Secretary Antony Blinken, the senators also requested a briefing on the status of the administration’s engagement with the Indian government on this matter.

The letter said that the US-India relationship must not only be based on mutual strategic interests, but also grounded in shared commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law, including respect for sovereignty and the individual rights and freedoms.

Those who wrote the letter are Senator Jeffrey A Merkley, Senator Chris Van Hollen, Senator Tim Kaine, Senator Bernard Sanders and Senator Ron Wyden.

“On November 29, 2023, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an unsealed indictment of Indian national Nikhil Gupta for participation in a foiled plot to assassinate a US citizen in New York. The target, who media reported to be Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, is a vocal critic of the Indian government and advocate for the secession of Punjab, an Indian state with a sizable Sikh population,” they apprised.

The senators said an unidentified Indian government official, working with Gupta, ordered the assassination plot, which was foiled by the US Drug Enforcement Administration.

As per the announcement, Gupta revealed that they had four targets, including Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader who was murdered in Canada in June 2023 by armed assailants.

“While we fully support the DOJ’s efforts to bring Gupta to justice, the US administration must match words with actions to hold Indian officials involved in the plot accountable, and to send a clear message that there will be consequences for such behaviour,” they said.

The senators wrote it was imperative that the US took an unequivocal stand against such a threat to the rights of a US citizen and violation of the country's sovereignty.

They also urged the Department of State for a briefing on how the department intended to pursue to press the Indian government to hold those involved accountable, and to ensure the government does not repeat such acts of transnational repression.

“India must maintain its commitment to respecting human rights at home and abroad as it aspires to global leadership. Now that India’s 2024 general election has concluded, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Modi returning to power, the United States has an opportunity to include this issue as a core agenda item with the Indian government,” they said.

The group of lawmakers said the US must be firm and resolute in opposing transnational repression, no matter the perpetrator.