Biden Can’t Ignore India Murder Plot in US, Top Democrat Says

(Bloomberg) -- The Biden administration shouldn’t prioritize its geopolitical relationship with India above insisting Prime Minister Narendra Modi hold accountable those behind an alleged plot to assassinate an American citizen on US soil, a top Democratic senator said.

Most Read from Bloomberg

“It would be a huge mistake if the Biden administration let this slide,” Senator Chris Van Hollen, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in an interview on Tuesday. “We need to apply our law — obviously — to our adversaries. But also we need to apply our standards and principles and laws to our friends and partners. Otherwise, we’d lose credibility.”

Van Hollen’s criticism of this facet of the US-India relationship is rare among President Joe Biden’s fellow Democrats. He has also been outspoken in his disapproval of the administration’s policy toward Israel.

US prosecutors accused an Indian government agent last year of directing a plot to assassinate the American — a Sikh activist in New York, Gurpatwant Singh Pannum, who’s been labeled a terrorist by New Delhi. Prosecutors alleged that plan was part of a broader Indian effort to target critics abroad, including the murder of a Canadian Sikh activist earlier that year.

The Biden administration and Modi’s government have downplayed the allegations, saying they don’t threaten their relationship, which is central to US efforts in Asia to counter China, Washington’s main strategic rival.

The senator’s criticism comes as the US and India continue to deepen their partnership. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan is in New Delhi this week holding talks with Indian officials and Modi on expanding cooperation between the two on everything from semiconductor chips to defense manufacturing and cooperation. It’s the first high-level visit to India by a US official since Modi won a third term earlier this month.

India’s government has largely denied the allegations of its involvement in targeting Sikh separatists, but announced an investigation into the American case. In March, senior Indian officials told Bloomberg that India’s investigation found that rogue operatives not authorized by the government were involved in the plot.

A congressional aide previously said that senators would not see an Indian investigation that blamed “rogue” operatives as credible.

Police in the Czech Republic this week extradited an Indian suspect wanted by the US for involvement in the alleged plot. The suspect, Nikhil Gupta, on Monday pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court to charges of conspiring to kill Pannun, according to media reports.

Most Read from Bloomberg Businessweek

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.