US Democratic Senators Urge Biden To Take ‘Strong Diplomatic Action’ Against India

A group of Democratic senators on Monday sought a “strong diplomatic” response from the Biden administration in the case pertaining to the allegations of the Indian government’s involvement in a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist in US.

In a two-page letter addressed to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, the senators wrote, “We urge a strong diplomatic response to ensure that all of those who were involved are held accountable, and request a briefing on the status of the administration’s engagement with the Indian government on this matter”.

The letter was signed by Senators Jeff Merkley, Ron Wyden, Tim Kaine, Bernie Sanders, and Chris Van Hollen. It comes at a time when Nikhil Gupta, the Indian national who is accused of being involved in a murder-for-hire plot against a Sikh extremist on American soil, pleaded not guilty in the case at a federal court on Monday.

The 52-year-old accused was extradited on Friday from the Czech Republic to the US. Gupta was apprehended in the Czech Republic in 2023 at the request of the US government as he was charged for his involvement in a plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani separatist, in New York. Pannun holds dual American and Canadian citizenship.

Gupta was produced before a federal court in New York on Monday, where he pleaded not guilty, according to his attorney, Jeffrey Chabrowe. US federal prosecutors allege that Gupta had been working according to the directions of an unnamed Indian government official.

New Delhi has, however, denied its involvement in such a case and has instituted a high-level investigation into the allegations. The senators emphasised that 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 (Narendra) Modi returning to power, the United States has an opportunity to include this issue as a core agenda item with the Indian government,” the letter read. “The United States must be firm and resolute in opposing transnational repression, no matter the perpetrator,” it stated.

The senators wrote that Washington and New Delhi share a crucial relationship across multiple domains – from security cooperation to trade and investment to strong cultural and people-to-people ties.

“As the two largest democracies in the world, this partnership must not only be based on mutual strategic interests but also grounded in a shared commitment to democratic principles and the rule of law, including respect for sovereignty and the individual rights and freedoms that are fundamental to any democracy,” they said.

The Washington Post in April 2024 reported that Vikram Yadav, a Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) officer, was the Indian official behind the plot. The leading daily also said the then R&AW chief Samant Goel sanctioned the operation.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs, however, dismissed the report, saying it makes “unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations” to claim that Indian agents were involved in the plot to kill Pannun.

On March 20, Assistant Secretary of State Donald Lu told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the Biden Administration has raised the plot “at the highest levels with India” and, referencing the panel, affirmed, “We ask them to work quickly and transparently to make sure justice is done,” the letter said.

The senators said they wanted the Department of State to press the India to hold those involved criminally accountable and to ensure the Indian government does not repeat such acts of transnational repression, as per the letter. India has publicly said a high-level inquiry is looking into the evidence shared by the US in the alleged plot to kill Pannun.

Meanwhile on Monday, the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan held talks with his Indian counterpart Ajit K Doval. Sullivan is on an official visit to India from June 17 to 18.

Leave a Comment