Biden drops out of high-profile India visit after claims of Indian murder plot on US soil

Biden drops out of high-profile India visit after claims of Indian murder plot on US soil


US president Joe Biden is likely to skip India’s Republic Day celebrations, at which he was expected to be the chief guest, according to reports.

This comes after the US Justice Department accused an Indian official of hatching a plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on American soil.

In September, US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti said Indian prime minister Narendra Modi had invited Mr Biden to be the chief guest for India’s Republic Day celebrations on 26 January.

India extended the invitation to Mr Biden as part of its preparations to host the Quad Leaders Summit in January next year.

An Indian government source told The Independent: “The Quad summit in India is proposed to be held later in 2024. We are looking for revised dates as the dates currently under consideration do not work with all the Quad partners.” The Quad is a diplomatic network of US, India, Japan and Australia.

A National Security Council spokesperson who spoke to The Independent on condition of anonymity said neither he nor the administration had “any travel announcements to preview at this time”.

Speaking about India and America’s relationship just a few days ago, Mr Garcetti had said: “To make this romantic, it is like our Facebook status for a long time was ‘it’s complicated’. Now we are dating.

“In time we will realise that maybe we have moved in together and we might not like each other’s habits, like why do you leave the towel on the floor … we are figuring out how and where this goes … there is a strong desire in our hearts, it is personal.”

In November, the US said that it had thwarted a plot to kill Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on American soil.

The US raised concerns with New Delhi that the Indian government may have had knowledge of the plot.

Canada pressed India last month to cooperate in an investigation of the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia after the US revealed it had foiled the assassination attempt against Pannun.

The US Justice Department said it was charging a 52-year-old man who had worked with an Indian government employee on a plot to assassinate the New York City resident, who had advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.

The US charges come about two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in a Vancouver suburb in June. India rejected that allegation.

The foiled plot to assassinate the prominent Sikh separatist leader was intended to precede a string of other politically motivated murders in the United States and Canada, according to US prosecutors.

In electronic communications and audio and video calls secretly recorded or obtained by US law enforcement, organisers of the plot talked last spring about plans to kill someone in California and at least three other people in Canada, in addition to the victim in New York, according to an indictment unsealed in November.

The goal was to kill at least four people in the two countries by 29 June, and then more after that, prosecutors contend.

“We have so many targets,” a man named Nikhil Gupta said in a recorded audio call, according to the indictment. “We have so many targets. But the good news is this, the good news is this: now no need to wait.”

The US attorney in Manhattan announced charges against Mr Gupta, and said in court papers that the plot to kill Pannun was directed by an official in the Indian government. That government official was not charged in the indictment or identified by name, but the court filing described him as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in security management and intelligence.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said the Indian government had set up a high-level inquiry after US authorities raised concerns about the plot to kill Pannun.

Additional reporting by agencies




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