According to the White House, the US has brought up an issue of an alleged plan to kill a Sikh separatist on US soil at the “senior-most” levels with India. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a dual citizen of the US and Canada, was the target, according to the Financial Times, a British daily business newspaper.
India has classified Pannun, a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland, as a terrorist.
Weeks before, Canada claimed that India might have been responsible for the death of another Sikh separatist.
Citing unidentified sources, The Financial Times said on Wednesday that US authorities had foiled a plot to kill Pannun and had warned India over possible involvement.
Indian officials “expressed surprise and concern” when contacted by the US regarding the allegations, according to the White House.
Pannun serves as general counsel for Sikhs for Justice, a US-based organisation that backs the larger Khalistan movement, which demands that Sikhs in India have their own sovereign nation.
Pannun referred to the “foiled attempt” on his life as “transnational terrorism which is a threat to the US sovereignty” in a statement to the BBC. “I will let the US government respond to this threat,” said the president.
In the Indian state of Punjab, the Khalistan movement peaked in the 1980s, but it has since waned. In contemporary Punjab, the movement has lost support in politics and is no longer the prevailing viewpoint.