An article by the Financial Times detailed a foiled plan to assassinate Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the U.S., sparking concerns about potential involvement of the Indian government. Despite requests for comments, India’s foreign ministry remained silent. The U.S. embassy spokesperson declined to discuss the matter, citing confidentiality in diplomatic and intelligence matters.
The Financial Times’ sources, while unnamed, did not confirm whether the FBI’s intervention or a diplomatic protest to India led to the abandonment of the plot. Pannun, identified as the target, faced a case filed by India’s anti-terror agency, accusing him of threatening Air India passengers through social media videos.
This incident follows a state visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the U.S., welcomed by President Joe Biden. It also comes in the wake of Canada’s claims of credible links between Indian agents and the murder of another Sikh separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Canada.
The U.S. response includes a sealed indictment against a suspect in a New York court and a diplomatic warning to India. Pannun, advocating for Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh state, is a figure opposed by the Indian government, which sees the movement as a security threat. He serves as general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, an organization banned by India for extremist activities.
India’s National Investigation Agency has charged Pannun with terrorism and conspiracy, related to his threats against Air India. Pannun, speaking to Reuters, clarified his stance as advocating for a boycott, not violence, against Air India. He referenced the 1985 Air India bombing, linked to Sikh militants, as a historical context.
Regarding the alleged assassination plot, Pannun deferred to the U.S. government for a response, comparing the situation to Nijjar’s murder in Canada, framing it as a challenge to U.S. sovereignty.
“Just like Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination by the Indian agents on Canadian soil was a challenge to Canada’s sovereignty, the threat to American citizen on American soil is a Challenge to America’s sovereign,” he said.
Canada and the U.S. are working closely in investigating Indian agents’ involvement in Nijjar’s murder, mentioning that the U.S. shared information about the thwarted plot with its allies post Canada’s public accusation.