India and U.S. can resolve differences, say Jaishankar, Finer

U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Adviserin Delhi for high-level meetings days after the Department of Justice linked an Indian government official to assassination plot of Pannun

December 04, 2023 11:01 pm | Updated December 05, 2023 07:23 am IST - New Delhi

U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Advisor (NSA) Jonathan Finer in a meeting with Vikram Misri, Deputy National Security Adviser (Strategic Affairs), National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), on Monday.

U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Advisor (NSA) Jonathan Finer in a meeting with Vikram Misri, Deputy National Security Adviser (Strategic Affairs), National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS), on Monday. | Photo Credit: ANI

Despite many differences in their relationship, India and the U.S. have been able to surmount all challenges, said the two sides after a visit to New Delhi by U.S. Principal Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer, the first high-level meetings since the U.S. indictment linked an Indian government official to an assassination plot last week.

In a statement released on Tuesday, the White House confirmed that Mr. Finer had discussed the indictment in Delhi. Mr. Finer acknowledged India’s establishment of a Committee of Enquiry to investigate lethal plotting in the United States and the importance of holding accountable anyone found responsible,” the readout said.

Significantly, Mr. Finer, who led a delegation for talks with the National Security Council (NSCS) on technology and met with his counterpart, Deputy National Security Adviser Vikram Misri, received meetings with External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra, indicating how much importance New Delhi gave the visit in the current situation after the publication of the Department of Justice indictment. 

“There are many difficult issues that remain in [the India-U.S.] relationship, right up to the present day,” said Mr. Finer, speaking at the Global Technology Summit in Delhi, organised by the External Affairs Ministry and Carnegie India, a think tank, where he spoke of the “complicated history” of the relationship.  “But what we have demonstrated, I think, throughout the course of not just this administration, [but previous administrations in India and U.S.] to bring us to the point where not only can we seize some of the important opportunities that the world presents for us, geopolitically and economically, but we can work through our differences in a constructive way without derailing that broader cooperative agenda,” he added.

Speaking at the same event, Mr. Jaishankar stressed that India and the U.S. had managed their relationships over the past two decades and five different U.S. Presidents. 

“The data clearly indicates a certain stability and that there is enough investment on both sides and structural soundness to the relationship,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that “from an Indian perspective, India-U.S. relations are certainly proofed against political checks”.

Neither side referred directly to the issue of the indictment that has seen the arrest of an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta after an elaborate investigation that involved an undercover U.S. law enforcement official posing as a hitman, in a case where the U.S. Department of Justice claims an Indian government official directed a plan to assassinate Khalistani separatists wanted by India, including Sikhs for Justice leader and U.S. national Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, and other unnamed targets in the U.S. and Canada.

The indictment also linked the plot to the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June. The revelations in the indictment released last week were called a “matter of concern” by the External Affairs Ministry that said a high-level inquiry committee had been constituted to investigate the U.S. allegations, although it had earlier dismissed Canadian allegations over the Nijjar killing. 

Both the Ministry and the U.S. Embassy in Delhi declined to say whether the Pannun issue had been raised during the meetings, but news agency PTI reported that it was “understood that that the [Pannun plot] issue figured in the meeting between Mr. Jaishankar and Mr. Finer”.

The Ministry also did not mention whether U.S. President Joseph Biden had conveyed his acceptance or response to the invitation given by Prime Minister Narendra Modi for him to attend the Republic Day parade in 2024, and officials declined to comment on the issue. Mr. Finer’s visit follows closely after the India-U.S. 2+2 dialogue with Foreign and Defence Ministers held on November 10. 

In its readout of the meeting between Mr. Finer and Mr. Misri, the Ministry said that the meeting was a follow-up to the visit of U.S. NSA Jake Sullivan to India in June and the earlier visit of NSA Ajit Doval to the U.S. in January. A Washington Post report, which has not been officially denied, said that Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Doval had discussed U.S. concerns over the Pannun plot during a pull aside meeting during a visit to Saudi Arabia in August.  

The two Deputy NSAs discussed elevating the “bilateral strategic partnership and agreed to broaden the scope of iCET to biotechnology, critical minerals and rare earths processing technologies, digital connectivity and digital public infrastructure, and advanced materials”, the readout said. “They also affirmed the importance of easing regulations to facilitate high-tech collaborations, and transfer of technology,” it added.

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