White House maintains New Delhi remains ‘strategic partner;’ Washington will work to bolster ties. The White House said Thursday it is taking a keen interest in an ongoing criminal case surrounding an alleged state-sanctioned plot to kill a Sikh activist on American soil.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby maintained, however, that New Delhi remains a “strategic partner” for the US, and said Washington would “continue to work to improve and strengthen that strategic partnership with India.”
“These allegations, and this investigation, take it very seriously. And we’re glad to see that the Indians are too by announcing their own efforts to investigate this. And we’ve been clear that we want to see anybody that’s responsible for these alleged crimes to be held properly accountable,” he added.
The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against Nikhil Gupta, 52, alleging he was involved in a foiled plot to murder an unnamed Sikh attorney and political activist at the direction of an Indian government agent, who is also not named.
Gupta is an Indian national who was recruited by New Delhi’s agent “to orchestrate the assassination of the Victim in the United States,” according to the agency.
The intended victim is a vocal Sikh critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government and advocates for the secession of the northwestern Indian state of Punjab. The state is home to a large Sikh community. The victim and his organization have been banned in India, according to the US.
Court documents allege that Gupta sought to contract the killing out to a person he thought was a criminal associate, but who was working as a confidential informant with US federal agents. The individual then put Gupta in contact with someone who he purported to be a hitman, but who was instead an undercover officer.
Gupta offered to pay the officer $100,000 to murder the victim, supplying him with the victim’s personal information, including his home address and day-to-day routine, the indictment alleges.
Gupta is alleged to have then ordered the agent to kill the victim as soon as possible, but to refrain from carrying out the assassination around times of high-level meetings between US and Indian officials.
Gupta has been charged with one count each of murder-for-hire, and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire. He faces a maximum of 10 years in prison per charge if convicted.
Source : AA