RAW faces West hostility as US bats for stronger ties : The Tribune India

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RAW faces West hostility as US bats for stronger ties

RAW faces West hostility as US bats for stronger ties

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State

Tribune News Service

Sandeep Dikshit

New Delhi, December 1

The US and its Five Eyes allies have become unwelcoming to Indian intelligence operatives even as they seek to upgrade their strategic ties with New Delhi.

The White House has welcomed as “good and appropriate” the Indian Government’s announcement of a high-level probe into allegations that an Indian official was involved in a plan to kill a Sikh separatist.

Decision to order probe ‘appropriate’

Indian Govt announced it was conducting a probe, and that’s good and appropriate, and we look forward to seeing results. Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State

But in parallel, along with its Anglo-Saxon allies, it is making it increasingly difficult for Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) officials to take up assignments in Indian embassies in those countries.

Sources say the clash between India’s external intelligence and that of western countries hosting a significant Sikh separatist diaspora has reoccurred with the same senior RAW official guiding the operations.

In the latest fallout of Nijjar and Pannu episodes, the West, led by the US, has drawn a clear distinction between improving ties with Indian in the realms of defence, trade and security on one hand and intelligence operations on the other. Hence, while an Indian consulate in Seattle is set to open and will be headed by senior diplomat Prakash Gupta, a 1,000 km down the West Coast in San Francisco, a disclosed RAW official working at the consulate was asked to leave in June. The expulsion took place days after the FBI passed on to the Canadian intelligence a video of RAW officials allegedly discussing with the now-detained narcotics smuggler Nikhil Gupta the then-recent killing of Nijjar and the need to similarly bump off a target in New York, widely believed to be Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.

Sources say the heat is being faced by all RAW outposts in the “Five Eyes” countries barring New Zealand but the matter has come out in the open in case of the US, UK and Canada.

Ottawa had followed suit when soon after PM Justin Trudeau made the allegation of an Indian link in Nijjar’s murder, it named, exposed and expelled RAW station chief of Canada Pavan Kumar Rai, a 1997-batch Punjab-cadre IPS officer. London, too, has taken action against a middle-level RAW officer.

It may not be coincidental that friction with the West on the Khalistan issue has recurred at a time when the same RAW official has been heavily involved. A few years ago, they revealed Canada and Germany were upset over RAW allegedly using so-called journalists to pass on information about Khalistani separatists. There was another incident where Indian operatives were exposed after they tried to recruit separatists who were intelligence assets of the host countries where they had taken asylum.

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