PM Modi On India-US Ties

US President Joe Biden and India Prime Minister Narendra Modi (File).

New Delhi:

Allegations an Indian national conspired to murder an American-Canadian citizen – Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun – will be examined, but “a few incidents” cannot derail ties between India and the United States, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said Tuesday, in his first public remarks since US federal prosecutors last month announced murder-for-hire charges against Nikhil Gupta.

“If someone gives us any information, we will definitely look into it,” the Prime Minister told the Financial Times, “If a citizen of ours has done anything, good or bad, we are ready to look into it. Our commitment is to the rule of law.”

“There is, however, also strong bipartisan support for the strengthening of the India-US relationship, which is a clear indicator of a mature and stable partnership,” the Prime Minister told the British daily, which was the first to break news of Mr Gupta being charged, based on information from its sources..

The Prime Minister – a frequent visitor to the US since 2014, most recently a State visit in June – flagged “security and cooperation in counter-terrorism” as key parts of that partnership, and said, “I don’t think it is appropriate to link a few incidents with diplomatic relations between the two countries.”

US authorities said Nikhil Gupta, 52, and an Indian government staffer- code-named CC-1 – exchanged telephonic and electronic communications starting May, in which the latter asked the former to plan the murder.

READ | Who Is Nikhil Gupta, Man Charged In Failed Plot To Kill Khalistan Terrorist

In return, he was promised assistance in dropping a criminal case against him in India. The two also met in person, in Delhi, US prosecutors said. Mr Gupta is accused of trying to hire a hitman to kill Pannun, but that individual turned out to be an undercover American federal agent.

He faces a 20-year jail term if convicted of the murder-for-hire and conspiracy charges. The US has also accused an Indian government employee, whose identity has been withheld at this time.

Responding to the charges, the Foreign Ministry had said “India takes such inputs seriously since they impinge on our national security interests… the relevant departments are already examining the issue.” A high-level inquiry committee has been established, the government said.

The White House has called on New Delhi to hold those involved accountable. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “looks forward to the results” of the Indian government’s inquiry.

Mr Gupta, held in a Czech prison pending extradition to the US, moved the Supreme Court in India last week, claiming his religious and human rights were violated. The court refused immediate relief, and told the petitioner to file a copy with the government before setting the next date for January 4.

READ | “Approach Czech Court”: Indian, Arrested In US Murder Plot, Told

Meanwhile, this case has prompted renewed scrutiny of allegations made by Canada – Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government said it had “credible allegations” that an Indian government official was involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistani terrorist and Canadian citizen, in June.

READ | India Must Take “Canada’s Allegations Seriously”: Trudeau After US Case

Last month, after the US’ charges were revealed, Mr Trudeau told reporters it “… underscores what we’ve been talking about from the beginning, which is that India needs to take this seriously.”

India has rubbished Canada’s claims as “motivated” and “absurd”, and told Ottawa “this is not the Government of India’s policy”. It has also pointed out that no concrete evidence has been shared so far.

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