R&AW halts operations in North America for first time since 1968: report
Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s premier intelligence agency, has reportedly halted operations at its North American stations for the first time since its inception in 1968, according to TIN
The move came in anticipation of impending criminal charges against an Indian citizen accused of conspiring to assassinate a pro-Sikh activist in New York.
The US Justice Department said on Wednesday that an Indian government official directed an unsuccessful plot to assassinate a Sikh separatist on US soil, announcing charges against a man accused of orchestrating the attempted murder.
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.
“The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a US citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs,” Damian Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, said in a statement.
This comes two months after Canada said there were “credible” allegations linking Indian agents to the June murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb, something India has rejected.
Responding to the reports, Pakistan’s Foreign Office had said that the news of India’s involvement in an extrajudicial killing in Canada had shown that the country’s “network of extra-territorial killings had now gone global”.
TIN in its report quoting sources stated that two senior RAW officers were asked to leave their stations in major Western cities earlier this summer, ahead of a decision by United States prosecutors. It added that RAW was also blocked from replacing its station head in Washington DC.
“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,” the report said.
It said that the officers were the head of the RAW station in San Francisco and the second-in-command of its operations in London.
TIN said that the shuttering of RAW’s stations in San Francisco and Washington DC, coming on the back of the publicly-declared expulsion of its station chief in Ottawa, Pavan Rai, has left the Indian agency unrepresented in North America for the first time since it was founded in 1968.
The report stated that the prosecutors in the US claimed that alleged drug dealer Nikhil Gupta was offered up to $150,000 by an individual claiming to work for the Indian intelligence services to arrange the murder of an unnamed Khalistan lawyer and activist.
TIN, quoting sources, said in its report that the expulsion of the RAW officer in San Francisco, the Indian government was intended to underline their message that the US would not cooperate with Indian intelligence if the agency continued offensive operations in the West.
India has complained about the presence of Sikh separatist groups overseas, including Canada and the United States. The groups have kept alive the movement for Khalistan, or the demand for an independent Sikh state to be carved out of India.
Sikh activists were blamed for the 1985 bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India that killed all 329 aboard.