In a notable development, two senior officers from India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) were required to leave their positions in major Western cities. This occurred before U.S. prosecutors decided to pursue criminal charges related to the spy agency's alleged connection to an assassination campaign targeting pro-Khalistan activists. Measures taken against RAW also included preventing the appointment of a replacement for its Washington, DC station head.
The affected officers held key roles as the head of RAW's San Francisco station and the second-in-command of its London operations. Crucially, these were openly acknowledged positions within the Indian Police Service (IPS), not undercover roles. Despite their importance, ThePrint has opted not to disclose their names as both officers are still in service with RAW.
Concurrently, the Indian government encountered difficulties in appointing a replacement for RAW's Washington, DC station chief, who had returned earlier in the year. According to established RAW conventions, the new appointee was expected to assume duties before the scheduled retirement of the organization's former chief, Samant Goel, on June 30.
The closure of RAW's stations in San Francisco and Washington, DC, following the expulsion of its Ottawa station chief, Pavan Rai, represents the first time the organization is without representation in North America since its establishment in 1968.
Government sources deny claims that these actions resulted from Western pressure, attributing them instead to a series of "unfortunate coincidences of personal, family, and administrative issues." A RAW officer insisted that the prolonged delay in assigning someone to Washington was solely due to administrative factors and would be addressed soon.
The alleged murder plot, claimed by U.S. prosecutors to involve an individual linked to Indian intelligence services offering money for the assassination of a Khalistan lawyer and activist, is vehemently denied by RAW. While acknowledging the inquiry's exploration of potential unauthorized actions by individuals, the organization maintains its innocence.
The U.S. indictment does not explicitly name the victim or the Indian intelligence service involved. However, government sources reveal that U.S. officials conveyed to counterparts in New Delhi that RAW was implicated in a conspiracy to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a prominent Khalistan activist and lawyer.
The Washington Post reported that U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and CIA Director William Burns met with Indian counterparts earlier in the year, urging accountability in the case, especially following the killing of alleged Khalistan terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Sources within the Indian government suggest that the expulsion of the RAW officer in San Francisco aimed to send a clear message – cooperation with Indian intelligence would be compromised if offensive operations in the West continued. Similarly, the removal of the RAW officer in London, although lacking specific reasons from UK national security officials, appeared symbolic. This action targeted the junior of two disclosed intelligence positions at the High Commission of India in the city.
According to a senior RAW officer, such matters typically involve a diplomatic conversation, with the host country's secret service cautioning the involved intelligence officer. However, the recent expulsions from RAW indicate an unprecedented escalation beyond typical diplomatic protocols.