Mint Explainer: Foiled attack on pro-Khalistan leader and India-US ties | Mint

Mint Explainer: Foiled attack on pro-Khalistan leader and India-US ties

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has been designated as a terrorist by Indian authorities.. (File photo) (HT_PRINT)
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun has been designated as a terrorist by Indian authorities.. (File photo) (HT_PRINT)

Summary

  • Statements made by both sides reflect a cooperative approach to dealing with the matter, in sharp contrast to the allegations made by Canada in September

US officials have foiled a bid to assassinate pro-Khalistan leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, claimed a report in The Financial Times. US officials have also reportedly warned the Indian government amid concerns about its involvement in the matter. This report, which comes just months after Canada made similar allegations against India, may have broader implications for India and its diplomatic ties. Mint breaks down the developments:

What does the report say about the incident?

The Financial Times’ report said that US officials had thwarted a plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent pro-Khalistan leader. Pannun has been designated as a terrorist by Indian authorities. The report said that US officials issued a warning to the Indian government amid concerns about its involvement in the matter after PM Modi’s visit to America in June. A sealed indictment has also been filed against individuals involved in the case, which may be made public. The report also states that America briefed its allies about the matter once Canada’s Justin Trudeau publicly insinuated India's involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another prominent face in the pro-Khalistan movement, in September.

How have both sides reacted?

India’s ministry of external affairs did not deny the story. Its somewhat vague statement confirmed that the US government had provided “inputs pertaining to nexus between organized criminals, gun runners, terrorists and others". The MEA said that the relevant departments were following up on the matter. Meanwhile, US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson also confirmed that America had conveyed its concerns to the Indian government, including at the “senior-most levels". Watson said Indian officials had expressed surprise and concern on the matter. “We have conveyed our expectation that anyone deemed responsible should be held accountable," she said.

What does this mean for India-US relations?

At this moment, it seems that both sides have decided to deal with the matter largely behind closed doors. New Delhi and Washington also seem unwilling to let this incident disrupt bilateral relations. The engagement has continued, including through the high-level 2+2 dialogue which took place in Delhi earlier in November. Statements made by both sides also reflect a more cooperative approach to dealing with the matter, in sharp contrast to the allegations made by Canada in September.

What does this mean for India’s broader diplomacy?

This development comes as an unwelcome distraction for New Delhi. The news came on the day India was hosting the Virtual G20 Summit and expected to talk up its achievements during its Presidency of the G20, which is set to end this month. Some argue that this latest story will cause some reputational harm, especially after Canada has already made similar allegations amid India’s vociferous denials. Others suggest that the fallout will be limited, since India and Canada seem to be inching towards a diplomatic thaw while New Delhi and Washington have played down the matter.

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