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India’s investigation into US claims of an attempted murder of a Sikh leader in New York found that rogue operatives not authorized by the government had been involved in the plot, according to senior officials familiar with the matter.

At least one person directly involved in the alleged attempted assassination is no longer working for India’s main spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, the officials said, asking not to be identified because the details of the investigation haven’t been made public.

The individual is still employed by the government and India hasn’t started any criminal action against him, the people said.

New Delhi has informed US authorities about the findings from the government-appointed panel set up to probe the allegations, the people said. The US is demanding a criminal prosecution of the individuals involved, a request reiterated by Donald Lu, assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asia, during his visit to India in January, the people said.

US prosecutors in November accused an Indian government official of directing a plot to kill a Sikh activist, who holds US citizenship, in New York in June. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh separatist and vocal critic of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government, later said he was the intended victim. India has labeled Pannun a terrorist.

US prosecutors alleged the Indian government agent — described as a “senior field officer” with responsibilities in “security management” and “intelligence” — had instructed Nikhil Gupta, an Indian national who had ties to criminal networks, to organize the assassination of Pannun. Gupta was arrested in the Czech Republic and is awaiting extradition to the US to face charges there.

The US expects accountability from India’s government based on the outcome of the investigation, a State Department spokesperson said on background. The department continues to raise its concerns directly with the Indian government at senior levels, the person said. 

On Wednesday, assistant secretary of state Lu was questioned about the matter at a US House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in Washington. Lu said the US has asked India to “work quickly and transparently to make sure justice is done.” The Biden administration takes the allegations of attempted murder “incredible seriously and have raised this at the highest levels with India,” he added.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs didn’t immediately respond to an email seeking further information. India hasn’t made public any details of the high-level committee set up to investigate the US allegations, including who is on it and the status of the probe. 

Both India and the US have sought to downplay the significance of the allegations, and have continued to hold bilateral meetings on a number of issues since then. Senior Biden administration officials like Trade Representative Katherine Tai have visited India since the claims came to light at the end of November.

The Biden administration has sought to deepen ties with Modi’s government, viewing India as key to its strategy of countering China’s growing assertiveness in Asia. 

Even so, the case has put the US in an awkward spot and adds to evidence that India may be targeting Sikh activists overseas. In September, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sparked a diplomatic storm after he publicly accused India of orchestrating the murder of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil — allegations New Delhi vigorously denied.  

India has said Canada hasn’t provided it with evidence of the allegations and the matter isn’t being investigated by New Delhi. The dispute prompted India to force Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country, impacting visa services for Indians seeking to travel to the North American country.

(Updates with comments from US State Department official.)

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