NEW YORK (Diya TV) – An Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, has been charged in the United States for allegedly conspiring to assassinate a U.S. citizen advocating for Khalistan. The charges announced by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, revealed Gupta’s arrest in June by Czech authorities and pending extradition.

Gupta, 52, faces charges of murder-for-hire and conspiracy to commit murder-for-hire, each carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. U.S. authorities claim Gupta was “recruited” by someone “employed by the Indian government,” with responsibilities in “intelligence.”

Gupta is said to have agreed to pay an assassin $100,000 to kill a Sikh separatist leader, believed to be Sikhs for Justice leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who resides in New York City. The apparent assassin turned out to be a “confidential source working with U.S. law enforcement.”

The indictment alleges on June 9, 2023, Gupta arranged for an associate to deliver a $15,000 cash advance for the murder. While the U.S. citizen target remains unnamed in the indictment, Pannun, a vocal critic of the Indian government who has been deemed a “terrorist” by that nation, said in a statement he was the target.

“The attempt on my life on American Soil is the blatant case of India’s transnational terrorism which has become a challenge to America’s sovereignty and threat to freedom of speech,” said Pannun.

The charges come after a senior Biden administration official revealed the foiled plot, issuing a warning to India over potential involvement. 

U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams stated, “The defendant conspired from India to assassinate, right here in New York City, a U.S. citizen of Indian origin who has publicly advocated for the establishment of a sovereign state for Sikhs.”

The plot’s exposure underscores the ongoing international tensions involving Sikh separatists seeking the formation of Khalistan. In August, Canada alleged Indian involvement in the murder of Khalistan Tiger Force leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a claim India has denied.

When asked about the unsealed indictment, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said “the news coming out of the United States further underscores what we’ve been talking about from the very beginning, which is that India needs to take this seriously.”

Gupta’s arrest in the Czech Republic is pursuant to a U.S.-Czech extradition treaty and raises questions about when he might be extradited to face charges in the United States.

As India constitutes a high-level inquiry committee to examine the matter, the External Affairs Ministry spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, emphasized the seriousness of such inputs, stating that they impinge on “our national security interests.” 

Top U.S. and India leaders have worked closely together all year, from Prime Minister Modi’s State Visit in Washington and the G20 in India to the recent 2 + 2 Ministerial Dialogue in New Delhi. 

This news adds a dramatic layer to what has been a budding relationship across many sectors.