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Thursday, February 22, 2024  
11 Shaban 1445  

In a major blow for India, Western countries expel RAW station chiefs

Indian plot to assassinate Sikh Khalistani leaders on Western soil backfires
Reuters/File
Reuters/File

Two senior Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) station chiefs were expelled from major Western cities earlier this summer while a third station chief is being refused entry, Indian website ThePrint revealed citing intelligence sources on Thursday.

Indian secret agency has suffered the worst blow in North America since its inception in 1968, according to the publication.

By expelling Indian spies, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom have expressed their anger against India over its plot to assassinate Sikh Khalistani leaders on Western soil. It is also an indication that the country would no longer extend intelligence cooperation to India, said the report.

The report in The Print came two days after the US Justice Department accused an Indian government employee of directing an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on US soil.

Last week, a senior Biden administration official said the US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the US and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved.

“Expelling the officers was part of a series of moves intended to signal anger against what the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom saw as violations of the unwritten conventions which govern the operations of RAW in those countries,” said the report.

According to the intelligence sources, the officers who have been expelled were the head of the RAW station in San Francisco and the second-in-command of its operations in London. The officers were of senior and mid-senior levels in the Indian Police Service.

The news outlet did not share their names as both remain in service with the Indian intelligence agency.

It added that the Narendra Modi-led government was denied permission to post an officer to replace RAW’s station chief in Washington, DC, who returned home earlier this year. The new officer was to have taken charge before the scheduled retirement of the organisation’s former chief Samant Goel on June 30.

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The closure of intelligence agency stations in San Francisco and Washington DC follows the expulsion of RAW’s station chief in Ottawa. Pavan Rai was expelled for his involvement in the murder of Hardeep Sindh Nijjar.

The latest expulsions are linked with the plot to assassinate another Sikh leader, Patwant Singh Pannu.

The United States Justice Department has charged an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, for hire-to-kill in the pot while it has also alleged that an Indian government employee was directing the murder plan.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said Nikhil Gupta, 52, worked with the Indian government employee, whose responsibilities included security and intelligence, to assassinate a New York City resident who advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.

Prosecutors did not name the target of Gupta’s alleged plot, who they described as a vocal critic of the Indian government who leads a US-based organisation that advocates for the secession of India’s Punjab state, which is home to a large population of Sikhs.

But the government sources told the Indian media outlet that US officials told interlocutors in the Indian capital that RAW conspired to assassinate top Khalistan activist and lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

The expulsion of the RAW officer in San Francisco, Indian government sources said, was intended to “underline their message that the US would not cooperate with Indian intelligence if the agency continued offensive operations in the West, an Indian intelligence officer familiar with the case said.”

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