tharoor185_ NARINDER NANUAFP via Getty Images_sikh separatist NARINDER NANU/AFP via Getty Images

Does India Have a Hit List?

The recently exposed plot to assassinate another Sikh separatist leader on North American soil has fostered an impression of India as an irresponsible country targeting foreign citizens abroad. Now, the pressure is on for India to salvage its global reputation and preserve its relationship with the United States.

NEW DELHI – The United States has charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta, a 52-year-old narcotics and weapons trader, for plotting to murder a prominent Sikh separatist, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen, in New York City. The indictment, which alleges that an Indian government official in New Delhi paid Gupta to arrange the killing, has cast a shadow over India’s relationship with the US as well as the country’s global image.

We have been here before. Just a couple of months ago, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that there were “credible allegations” about a “potential link” between India’s government and the fatal shooting in June of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, on Canadian soil. India responded with outrage, demanding the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats from New Delhi.

But whereas Trudeau could not prove that the Indian government was involved in Nijjar’s killing, the US Justice Department is prepared to take its evidence to court. Among the damning details is one that seems to link the two killings: Gupta’s handler in New Delhi allegedly sent him a video clip “showing Nijjar’s bloody body slumped in his vehicle,” which Gupta carelessly shared with the hitman he had hired.