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White House: Those Behind Plot to Kill Pannun Should be Held Accountable

Calling India and the US strategic partners, the White House has reiterated that it wants the plot to kill a Sikh separatist on its soil fully investigated and those behind it be held “properly accountable”.

“India is a strategic partner. We are deepening that strategic partnership. They are a member of the Quad in the Pacific and we participate with them on a range of security-related issues and we want to see that continue unabated,” John Kirby, Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council in the White House, said on Thursday.

“That said at the same time we certainly recognise the seriousness of these allegations and as I said earlier we want it fully investigated and those responsible to be held properly accountable,” Kirby told reporters at a news conference here.

He was responding to a question on the impact of the allegations on India-US bilateral ties, and President Joe Biden’s visit to India in 2024.

The indictment of Indian national Nikhil Gupta in plotting to assassinate Khalistan leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has reportedly thrown a spanner in the works of the US President’s attendance at Republic Day next year.

While Kirby said he has no travel to announce at this time, the National Security spokesperson added that they are glad that their Indian counterparts are taking the Pannun issue seriously.

“It’s (the case) under active investigation. We have said that we are glad that our Indian counterparts are taking it seriously in doing that. We want those responsible for these attacks to be held fully accountable but I won’t get ahead of an investigation that isn’t complete,” Kirby said at the news briefing.

The remarks came as US Principal Deputy National Security Advisor Jonathan Finer visited India this week during which he held talks with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra.

FBI Director Christopher Wray is set to visit India next week against the backdrop of the allegations.

When asked about Wray’s planned trip to India, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the visit is in the works as part of the overall bilateral cooperation in areas of cyber-security, counter-terrorism and counter-narcotics.

US federal prosecutors last month accused Gupta of “planning and directing” a plot from India to allegedly kill Pannun in New York.

Reacting to the charges, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said it was a “matter of concern” and “contrary to Indian government’s policy”.

India constituted a high-level Enquiry Committee to look into all the relevant aspects of the matter, and said it will take necessary follow-up action based on the findings of the Committee.

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