India’s Clandestine Footprint Has Reached the US

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  • Reading time:4 mins read
  • Post author:News Desk
  • Post category:Policy Bits

The United States has indicted Indian national Nikhil Gupta in connection with a failed plan to kill a US-based Sikh activist, underscoring a troubling trend of India’s transnational clandestine operations. The specifics of this case raise major concerns about India’s approach to dissent, the exploitation of criminal networks for political purposes, and the implications for US-India ties. Nikhil Gupta, described as an associate of an Indian government official known as CC-1, is suspected of masterminding the murder-for-hire scheme. CC-1, a “Senior Field Officer” with ties to Indian intelligence, asked Gupta to remove the prominent critic of the Indian government who heads a U.S.-based organization, Sikhs for Justice.

The Indian government has banned the victim’s calls for Khalistan, an aspiring Sikh sovereign state. The plot itself is a diabolical web of criminality, with Gupta, notorious for his involvement in international narcotics and weapons trafficking, arranging the assassination inside the US.

The actual perpetrators intended to muddy the waters by enlisting a criminal accomplice and attempting to hire a hitman through illicit dealings, making it difficult to trace the origins of the murder plot.

The revelations around this plot throw light on India’s extreme tendencies, that have now hardened both in its society as well as the government. The employment of criminal networks for political purposes illustrates a perilous convergence of illegal and state-sponsored transnational activities.

The attempted assassination on US soil is a potential danger to US-India ties. The US has demonstrated restraint and the details about the plot are making it to the media after Nikhil Gupta was already extradited from the Czech Republic in June, this year. But India’s move has possible repercussions on its partnership with the US. The US is very likely to demand a full probe and explanation from Indian authorities on the involvement of a government official in this murder-for-hire exposé.

While this is a big development, it is not the first time that claims of politically motivated murders with the possible involvement of India have surfaced. The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, an accomplice of the victim in the United States, adds another layer to the expanse of such covert operations. If Gupta’s assertion that Nijjar “was also the target” is correct, it points to India’s urge to penetrate and target dissent in the diaspora systematically. The United States Department of Justice, in collaboration with the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI, is vigorously investigating the matter.

This investigation reveals a troubling aspect of India’s response to dissent.

The link between government actors and criminal networks as well as the potential ramifications for international relations, emphasizes the importance of a full and transparent inquiry. An agreement may be reached between India and the US mid-way through the inquiry but this foiled assassination plot has already altered perceptions around India falsely projecting itself as a democracy that appreciates diversity.

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