The paper, citing “multiple people familiar with the case,” said Washington issued a warning to New Delhi over concerns it was involved in the plot, without elaborating if an attempt had been made on Pannun’s life or how far along the purported plot had gone.
Separate from the diplomatic warning, US federal prosecutors have also filed a sealed indictment against at least one alleged perpetrator of the plot in a New York district court, the paper said, citing “people familiar with the case.”
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The US justice department is debating whether to unseal the indictment and make the allegations public or wait until Canada finishes its investigation into the murder of Sikh Extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which is also attributed, without evidence, to New Delhi.
Further complicating the case, one person charged in the indictment is believed to have left the US, the paper said.
US officials appeared to confirm the report, saying New Delhi had “expressed surprise and concern” over Washington’s message and “stated that activity of this nature was not their policy.”
“We understand the Indian government is further investigating this issue and will have more to say about it in the coming days. We have conveyed our expectation that anyone deemed responsible should be held accountable,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.
The US warning apparently came after Prime Minister’s Modi’s visit to Washington in June, which was hailed as a grand success, marking a further upswing in US-India ties.
Allegations of New Delhi’s hand in the Nijjar murder surfaced after the visit, and some commentators have suggested it could be an attempt by some US agencies to scupper advances with what is characterised in some quarters as a government led by a right-wing Hindu nationalist party.
Pannun, who is said to be an American and Canadian citizen, is the general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, a US-based group advocating an independent “Khalistan” that has barely any support among Sikhs in India, US, or anywhere else in the world.
The FT report said Washington also informed some allies about the plot following the Nijjar murder. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau implicity alleged India’s had in the killing, saying there were “credible allegations” linking New Delhi to the shooting, again without providing any evidence. Initial information about the plot is said to have come from US intelligence agencies.