Washington asks India about alleged assassination plot against US-Canadian activist

By The Canadian Press and Hana Mae Nassar

The U.S. government says it asked Indian authorities about allegations of a foiled assassination plot targeting a U.S.-Canadian citizen and it expects anyone deemed responsible to be “held accountable.”

National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson says in a statement the U.S. government is “treating the issue with utmost seriousness” and raised it with the “senior-most” levels of India’s government.

She was responding to a report in the Financial Times alleging U.S. authorities thwarted a plan to assassinate Sikhs for Justice general counsel Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil, and raised concerns that India’s government was involved.

Pannun, a dual citizen, is an organizer of a series of Sikh separatist votes in Canada and the United States.

Watson says in a statement that Indian officials expressed “surprise and concern” and told the Americans that such activities were not their policy.

India’s High Commission in Ottawa did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Pannun was in British Columbia as recently as late October, when a Sikh gurdwara hosted the second round of a non-binding vote on the establishment of Khalistan — an independent Sikh state within India.

The gurdwara’s leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was shot dead outside the Surrey temple in June. The 45-year-old was a vocal advocate for an independent Sikh state of Khalistan in India, where he was accused of terrorism and conspiring to murder a Hindu priest.

In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” linking the killing to India’s government.

“Canada is a rule of law country. The protection of our citizens and defence of our sovereignty are fundamental,” Trudeau said on Sept. 18.

“Our top priorities have therefore been, one, that our law enforcement and security agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians, and two, that all steps be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account.”

These comments led to more diplomatic tensions between the two countries, with India and Canada expelling each other’s diplomats and Indiaintroducing a visa ban on Canadian nationals.

However, on Wednesday, Nov. 22, it was announced that India restored electronic visa services for Canadians, a move that could ease the ongoing strife.

In October, officials said more than 200,000 people turned out to vote in two unofficial referendums.

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