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Jun 17, 2024, 6:09am EDT
politics

Senators tell Biden admin to increase pressure on India over Sikh murder plot

REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane
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The Scoop

The State Department should put more pressure on India’s government to punish those behind a failed plot to assassinate a Sikh activist on US soil, a group of Democratic senators argue in a new letter.

Citing “credible allegations” of Indian government involvement in the murder plot, the group is asking Secretary of State Antony Blinken to undertake a “strong diplomatic response,” according to a copy of the correspondence shared with Semafor.

The group, led by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley, is also requesting a briefing from the Biden administration on the status of its engagement with the Indian government about the plot, which was uncovered last year.

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“The Administration must match words with actions to hold Indian officials involved in the plot accountable, and to send a clear message that there will be consequences for such behavior,” the letter states. “It is imperative that we take an unequivocal stand against such a threat to the rights of a U.S. citizen and violation of U.S. sovereignty, which are examples of India’s increasingly irresponsible efforts to silence critics of its government among its diaspora around the world.”

The letter is also signed by Democratic Sens. Chris Van Hollen of Maryland, Tim Kaine of Virginia, and Ron Wyden of Oregon. Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont also signed the letter.

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Step Back

The senators’ letter cites reporting from The Washington Post that said an individual with India’s intelligence service, Vikram Yadav, was the official involved in the plot and that other officials in the spy service with higher ranks were also implicated. Earlier reporting from Bloomberg said that an Indian government investigation blamed “rogue operatives not authorized by the government” for orchestrating the scheme.

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“This is a serious matter, and we’re taking that very, very seriously,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in April of reports about India’s intelligence service being involved in the plot. “We’re going to continue to raise our concerns.”

But the assassination continues to be a delicate issue for the Biden administration, which has sought to deepen ties with India, viewing it as a critical counterweight against China in Asia. The letter comes as White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan is in India for discussions on technology cooperation.

Biden and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was just reelected, briefly spoke at the Group of Seven summit in Italy last week but the two did not have a fuller bilateral meeting.

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“India must maintain its commitment to respecting human rights at home and abroad as it aspires to global leadership,” the senators’ letter to Blinken states. “Now that India’s 2024 general election has concluded, with the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party and Prime Minister Modi returning to power, the United States has an opportunity to include this issue as a core agenda item with the Indian government.”

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Notable

Canada has been sharing more information with India about an assassination of another Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, on Canadian soil, Bloomberg reported. Canadian police have charged four Indian nationals in the plot and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has alleged a link to the Indian government.

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