How Indian Agents Are Operating Out Of Indian Consulates To Target Sikhs In The West
A Baaz Investigation reveals the depths of the Indian Consulates-Indian Intelligence nexus, including which RAW agents were recently expelled in the UK & US, and which remain in Western countries.
Jaskaran Sandhu & Karam Singh
December 11, 2023 | 12 min. read | Original Reporting
On September 23, 2023, shortly after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s revelations that Canadian intelligence believed India was behind the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, The Wire broke a story sharing that "For reasons not clear, the R&AW station chief’s post in Washington DC, which fell vacant a few months ago, is yet to be filled as the host government is yet to agree to India’s nomination."
Then, on the heels of the US Justice Department unsealing an indictment concerning an Indian national, Nikhil Gupta, coordinating an Indian state assassination against a US citizen on US soil, Indian sources leaked more details to the website ThePrint, which added critical details to the original findings from the Wire.
Baaz has linked to an archived version of the original ThePrint article, as some pertinent information was removed from the piece without an update notice concerning when the changes were made or why key information was deleted. The current edition can be found here.
“[T]he Government of India was denied permission to post an officer to replace RAW’s station chief in Washington, DC, who returned home earlier this year. The new officer, in line with long-standing RAW convention, was to have taken charge before the scheduled retirement of the organisation’s former chief, Samant Goel, on 30 June,” ThePrint published.
The US and UK governments had also expelled the head of the RAW station in San Francisco and the second-in-command of its operations in London, respectively, in light of the Indian assassination program abroad and foreign interference targeting diasporic Sikhs.
“Two senior Research and Analysis Wing officers were asked to leave their stations in major Western cities earlier this summer, ahead of a decision by United States prosecutors to initiate criminal charges in the wake of the spy agency’s alleged role in an assassination campaign targeting pro-Khalistan activists, intelligence sources have told ThePrint,” Praveen Swami wrote.
He went on to state that “British intelligence had, however, voiced unhappiness on several occasions over the increasing involvement of RAW in Sikh diasporic politics in the country.”
ThePrint did not disclose any of the names of the agents in question.
The story also shared that the agents are a 2013-batch Tamil Nadu cadre Indian Police Service (IPS) officer and a 2001-batch IPS officer of the Telangana cadre. This key information was later removed from the story, however no update notice was given by ThePrint in the story alerting to the changes or why it was made.
ThePrint added that the “source noted that the [London RAW] officer’s wife, also an IPS officer, continues to serve in her position at the Indian consulate in Birmingham.” This information was, once again, later removed from the story. No update notice was given by ThePrint in the story alerting to the change, when it was made, or why it was made.
ThePrint also updated the story afterwards to include comments from RAW on its position on the matter.
“Government sources pushed back against claims that the removal of the three officers was driven by Western pressure. Instead, they attributed them to a series of ‘unfortunate coincidences of personal, family and administrative issues,’” the ThePrint writes.
“‘The third case, the long pause in assigning someone to Washington, is simply due to administrative factors,’ one RAW officer said, adding that it ‘will be addressed soon’.
The murder ‘plot’ itself, the officer insisted, did not involve RAW and while the inquiry will show if any or some individuals acted ‘on an unauthorised basis’, the organisation can’t be blamed,” they add.
Sources with knowledge of the investigations have shared with Baaz, however, that it is unlikely an Indian assassination program of this magnitude, crossing multiple jurisdictions and targeting a list of Sikh activists, would be done without the knowledge and support of high ranking Indian intelligence and government officials.
Investigations into India’s involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia, and the multiple other hits planned in the United States and Canada against Sikh activists, are ongoing as Five Eye allies share intelligence with one another on the matter and call on India to cooperate.
Baaz did reach out to Indian consulates in San Francisco and Birmingham for this story, as well as the Indian High Commission in London, on multiple occasions but has not yet received a response at the time of publishing.
RAW and IB Hierarchy Explained
India has two intelligence agencies. The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW, also sometimes R&AW) looks externally from India, while the Intelligence Bureau (IB) looks internally in India. RAW staffs its ranks with titles such as Under Secretary, Deputy Secretary, and Joint Secretary amongst others. The RAW chief, called Secretary (Research), is part of the cabinet secretariat, answerable only to the Prime Minister’s Office, which in the current case is the Hindu Nationalist BJP’s Narendra Modi.
RAW has its own cadre recruitment pipeline, RAS, but senior officers, typically from the Indian Police Service (IPS) or sometimes even the Indian Revenue Service (IRS), from Indian states are also recruited. State police officers called to national level duties, are said to be on “Central Deputation”. After training, they can be posted abroad in consulates for a three year duration.
RAW and IB have been criticised for not often recruiting Sikhs or Muslims into its ranks, and are notoriously opaque.
Ajit Doval, the current Indian National Security Advisor (NSA), and often seen at the centre of India’s attempts to silence Sikh activism in India and abroad, was once the head of IB. He has also been previously accused of trying to use gangs to complete Indian security objectives, including a foiled plan of trying to use a gangster to murder another gangster, Dawood Ibrahim, on foreign soil.
Akun Sabharwal, the Expelled RAW Official from San Francisco
The San Francisco RAW station head was Akun Sabharwal. He was Consul of India at its San Francisco embassy. He had joined either RAW or IB in October 2019, with the New Indian Express stating that “according to sources, during his [Central Deputation], he will work with an intelligence agency at the Centre.” Other articles state he was with an “intelligence agency.”
He joined the San Francisco station between October 22, 2021 and January 13, 2022. He was there until at least September 5, 2023. Official consulate Twitter once tweeted his US phone number too. He seems to have served less than two years in the US, cutting short the typical three year tenure given to Indian diplomats can mean he was expelled. The current page of the San Francisco consulate has removed his name.
His cover position at the consulate initially was Consul (Community Affairs, Information & Culture & Visa). But at the end, he seems to have been promoted as Consul of India, San Francisco, as one photograph displays.
The photograph also included a bio which shares that “Akun Sabharwal is [sic] born in 1976 in Patiala. Completed medical education from Patiala Dental College. [...] He is currently serving as Consul of India, San Francisco”. He is the son of retired Indian Air Force officer, D. P (Dharam Paul) Sabharwal.
Akun Sabharwal was active in the Sikh community in California, which is home to one of the largest Sikh populations in the diaspora. He conducted stage proceedings at a Ghadar Memorial meeting, was in presence of Ro Khanna, attended a book publishing event on well known Sikh shaheed Baba Deep Singh, and attended the Yuba City Nagar Kirtan.
During Sabharwal’s tenure, Sikhs were targeted with a pervasive surveillance and intimidation attempts at places of worship and personal properties. The FBI has warned multiple Sikh activists in California of threats to their lives in and around the same time of Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s assassination in Surrey, Canada.
Surveillance footage of men intimidating American Sikh Caucus founder, Dr. Pritpal Singh, another Sikh actor warned by the FBI of threats to his life, came from June 24, 2023, the same time an Indian official and Nikhil Gupta were planning the assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, as per the US Justice Department Indictment on the matter.
The Indictment states that the US agent was told by Gupta that there was a target in California, which may be the reason why the San Francisco consulate was singled out by US authorities for expulsions.
Sarvesh Raj, the Expelled RAW Official from London
Sarvesh Raj was the RAW second-in-command in London expelled by the UK Government. He joined the London consulate between June 15 and 18, 2022. The current page of the London consulate no longer lists his name. UK expelled him before he was allowed to complete his typical three year tenure at the position. His cover position was First Secretary (Political & Immigration).
Amanat Mann, the Other RAW Agent in Birmingham
ThePrint had noted in its original story that the London RAW official’s wife, also a RAW officer, continued to serve in “her position at the Indian consulate in Birmingham.”
Baaz has viewed wedding invitation cards that confirm his wife is Amanat Mann.
Mann was an ASP in Uttar Pradesh Police in 2015. A tribunal allowed her preference to transfer to Punjab. But she would be transferred from UP to Tamil Nadu, “on marriage grounds” after getting married to Sarvesh Raj. She was transferred to Tamil Nadu on September 25, 2017. Later, the couple was transferred to Delhi on November 26, 2018, from their state duties. The Tamil Nadu Police website positions the couple on Central Deputation at New Delhi and both of their titles are listed as Under Secretary, a position in RAW.
There is evidence that Mann has been active in the Sikh community of Birmingham.
She visited Cannock Road Gurdwara in November, 2022, with Parvesh Shukla, a Hindu Nationalist active in the Birmingham area who lists himself as “BJP Mission Modi again pm International Convenor” in his Twitter bio. BJP Mission Modi Again was an organisation active before the 2019 Indian elections focussed on re-electing Prime Minister Modi. Parvesh was active around April, making teams for Mission Modi Again PM Italy. He also was invited to the home of the Consulate General to celebrate Diwali. She was present at Guru Nanak Ji’s Gurpurab hosted by Indian Consulate in November 2022 as well, again along with the same Parvesh Shukla. Bradford Hindu Council also shared in a tweet that she was present at Shenward Chartered Accountants, Bradford trying to create “Living Bridge between India and UK”.
Shachi Ghildiyal, Indian Intelligence Official Formerly in Washington DC
Shachi Ghildiyal, an Indian police officer, appears to be the RAW official in Washington DC who was to be replaced by a now blocked successor. She was at the embassy until at least December 8, 2022. An early mention of Ghildiyal in the Washington Embassy comes from January 12, 2020. Ghildiyal seems to have completed the typical three years overseas tenure given to Indian ranks. Her cover position was of Counsellor (Personnel).
In April 2022, she was inducted into the “hard core” of the IB by the Indian government.
Ongoing Indian Police and RAW Presence in North America and UK
Two Indian police officers on Central Deputation, Jag Mohan and P Karunakaran, still remain at the Washington embassy.
Jag Mohan joined the embassy between 8 December 2022 and March 30, 2023. He is at a senior level position of Joint Secretary, and has been given a typical three years tenure, explicitly stating that he replaced another Police officer, Anurag Kumar. His position is Minister (Personnel & Community Affairs).
Anurag Kumar, IPS was at the Washington Embassy until at least December 29, 2021. He also held the same senior position of Joint Secretary with the same cover of Minister (Personnel & Community Affairs). He is acknowledged to be on Central Deputation with NIA, which is the Indian equivalent of the FBI.
In Washington, he completed a normal term of three years plus a one month extension. After going back to Delhi from Washington he seems to have been promoted to Joint Director, Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB).
Jag Mohan is active within some circles of the American Sikh community through contacts cultivated by previous diplomat Anshul Sharma, including attending an event put on by the organization Sikhs of America.
“Sikhs of America Inc. and the National Council of Asian Indian Associations (NCAIA) hosted a reception to honor two eminent figures from the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C., United States – Shri Jag Mohan, the newly appointed Minister of Personnel & Community Affairs, and Shri Anshul Sharma, the Counsellor of the Passport and Visa Wing who is set to return to India,” an article on the event reads.
Jasdip Singh, Chairman of Sikhs of America, issues press releases frequently siding with India. Jasdip Singh met Modi in 2014 during the Indian Prime Minister’s visit to the United States, raising the issue of visa denials of Sikhs that had sought asylum in America during the 1980s. The meeting was denounced by other Sikh actors at the time. Jasdip Singh also held a fundraiser for Aruna Miller with support of Hindu Nationalists, as per American media reports.
P Karunakaran, current Counsellor (Personnel) at Washington embassy, is a senior IPS officer with IB.
Baaz had also earlier broken a story about existing RAW presence in Canada, as Bikram Pal Singh Bhatty, an Indian police official on deputation to Indian intelligence, operates out of the Indian High Commission of Canada as the First Secretary (Consular).
Canada did expel RAW’s lead in Canada, Pavan Kumar Rai, right after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed that Canadian intelligence believed that India was behind the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Allegations that loop in Indian consulates and diplomats in Canada.
“[Pavan Kumar Rai] was posted to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, and [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada] Joly had told reporters in Ottawa on Monday that the expulsion was ‘as a consequence’ of the intelligence,” Global News reported at the time.
Similarly, RAW retains a senior presence in the UK.
Deepak Chaudhary replaced Manmeet Singh Narang, another IPS officer who is now posted at a regional office of Subsidiary Intelligence Bureau (SIB) after serving in London. Narang was also active in Sikh circles in the UK.
Manmeet Singh Narang himself replaced A S Rajan, who had been promoted to Director of Academy at the Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel National Police Academy in Hyderabad, which trains IPS officers. A senior promotion, which is at times given to RAW and IB agents on their return from foreign stints, shows the importance and weight these postings have.
As the world awaits further details, and potential arrests, from the Canadian investigation into the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, plus the continued fallout from the US Justice Department indictment of Gupta as well as community calls for a UK investigation into the death of Avtar Singh Kanda, it is likely we will see more disclosure on the reach of Indian intelligence in the West targeting Sikhs.
Jaskaran Sandhu hails from Brampton, Canada, and is the co-founder of Baaz. He is a Strategist at the public affairs and relations agency State Strategy. Jaskaran also previously served as Executive Director for the World Sikh Organization of Canada and as a Senior Advisor to Brampton’s Office of the Mayor. You can find Jaskaran on Twitter at @JaskaranSandhu_
Karam Singh is an engineering graduate from one of the IITs and the University of Alberta, Edmonton. His interests outside of work are archiving and keeping tabs on Anti-Sikh hatred and disinformation.
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