India's RAW forced to pull out of North America for first time in over 50 years: report

India's RAW forced to pull out of North America for first time in over 50 years: report


India's RAW forced to pull out of North America for first time in over 50 years: report

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(Web Desk) – For the first time since its founding in 1968, Indian spy agency, Research & Analysis Wing (RAW), has ceased operations at its stations in North America ahead of expected initiation of criminal charges against an Indian citizen for conspiring to assassinate a pro-Sikh activist in New York, according to a report published by ThePrint.

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 Gurpatwant Singh Pannun who advocated for a Sikh sovereign state in northern India.

The charges come after a senior Biden administration official last week said US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist in the United States and issued a warning to India over concerns the government in New Delhi was involved.

The Indian government has complained about the presence of Sikh separatist groups outside India, including in 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.

The movement is considered a security threat by India. Sikh separatists were blamed for the 1985 bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India in which all 329 people on board were killed.

The cause hardly has any support in India presently and was crushed within the country by the government in the 1990s.

In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed Indian government agents for the killing of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in a Vancouver suburb in June.

The fallout from the Vancouver incident raised concerns that RAW will come under greater global monitoring, Indian intelligence officials and analysts were cited as saying in a Reuters report.

Providing insights into subsequent events, ThePrint report, while citing intelligence sources, disclosed that two high-ranking RAW officers were asked to depart from their posts in major Western cities earlier this summer.

The publication stated it withheld the names of the two officers as both remain in service with the agency.

“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 added.

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, sources said.

“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 agency unrepresented in North America for the first time since it was founded during the tenure of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1968,” according to the report.

It detailed that 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.

ThePrint quoted its sources as saying that US officials told interlocutors in New Delhi that the RAW conspired to assassinate top Khalistan activist and lawyer Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

It also reported that the expulsion of the RAW officer in San Francisco was done with an apprehension that the US would not cooperate with Indian intelligence if the agency continued offensive operations in the West.

“British intelligence had voiced unhappiness on several occasions over the increasing involvement of RAW in Sikh diasporic politics in the country under former chief Goel, a Punjab-cadre IPS officer who served in operations against Khalistan terrorists before joining RAW,” detailed the report.

It also quoted an unnamed senior RAW officer as saying “if the problem really escalates, the ambassador or high commissioner might be involved, but things have never gone this far.”