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‘Continue to expect accountability’ from India on probe into Pannun plot: US

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Washington/New Delhi: The United States has said it “continues to expect accountability” from the Government of India regarding the probe into an alleged plot to assassinate Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, and is regularly working with India on the issue.

Vedant Patel, Principal Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department, answering a question on the Washington Post story that named a RAW officer as being allegedly involved in a plot to eliminate Pannun, said:

“So we continue to expect accountability from the Government of India based on the results of the Indian inquiry committee’s work, and we are regularly working with them and enquiring for additional updates.

“We’ll also continue to raise our concerns directly with the Indian Government at senior levels, but beyond that I’m not going to parse into this further and will defer to the Department of Justice.”

The response comes as India on Tuesday dismissed the Washington Post report, even as the White House said that it is taking the matter “very, very seriously” and would continue to raise their concerns directly with the Indian government.

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal dismissed as “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” a Washington Post report that named RAW officer Vikram Yadav as allegedly the one involved in the failed plot to assassinate Pannun on American soil, and that the operation was sanctioned by then spy chief Samant Goel.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on the issue: “This is a serious matter, and we’re taking that very, very seriously. The government of India has been very clear with us that they are taking this seriously and — and will investigate. And we expect that accountability from the government based on that.

“And so — but we’re going to continue to raise our concerns. That’s not going to stop. We’re going to continue to raise our concerns directly — directly with the Indian government,” she said.

MEA spokesperson Jaiswal in a statement said the Washington Post “makes unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter.”

“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 organised criminals, terrorists and others.

“Speculative and irresponsible comments on it are not helpful.”

The Post report had quoted unnamed former US and Indian security officials to claim that Yadav had enlisted a “hit team” to carry out the alleged assassination bid and had also transmitted Pannun’s contact information, including his New York address, to the would-be assassins.

It said that Yadav was a CRPF officer who moved to the RAW.

The report added that the US Justice Department has opted not to bring charges against Yadav for the time being as part of the US’ strategy not to disrupt ties with India.

The Washington Post report also claimed that “US spy agencies have more tentatively assessed that Modi’s national security adviser, Ajit Doval, was probably aware of RAW’s plans to kill Sikh activists, but officials emphasised that no smoking gun proof has emerged”.

In November last year, US federal prosecutors charged an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta with working with an Indian government employee in the foiled plot to kill Pannun.

Pannun, who is wanted in India on terror charges, holds dual citizenship of the US and Canada. He has been designated as a terrorist by the Union Home Ministry.

Earlier in September last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had levelled allegations of a “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia.

On December 7, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said in Parliament that India instituted an inquiry committee to look into the inputs received from the US in the Pannun case as the matter has a bearing on national security.

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