Lost in the plot about Pannun - Hindustan Times
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Lost in the plot about Pannun

ByHT Editorial
Nov 30, 2023 10:11 PM IST

US, Canada must recognise that the Khalistani leader represents a violent and radical ideology

The indictment by the US of an Indian national, allegedly working on the directions of an Indian official to set up the assassination of a senior Khalistani leader on American soil, evoked a cautious response from New Delhi. The external affairs ministry said a high-level inquiry committee has been set up to look into “inputs” provided by the US. The formal Indian response referred to a nexus of organised criminals, gun-runners and terrorists, and made no reference to the alleged plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) leader, declared a terrorist by India. However, the difference between India’s responses to allegations emanating from the US and a similar accusation by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – which New Delhi dismissed as “absurd” – is a pointer to how seriously the latest developments are being taken by New Delhi.  The external affairs ministry has acknowledged that the case in a US court against an Indian is a “matter of concern” and “contrary to government policy”.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the chief of banned outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).(HT_PRINT) PREMIUM
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the chief of banned outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ).(HT_PRINT)

The indictment by the US of an Indian national, allegedly working on the directions of an Indian official to set up the assassination of a senior Khalistani leader on American soil, evoked a cautious response from New Delhi. The external affairs ministry said a high-level inquiry committee has been set up to look into “inputs” provided by the US. The formal Indian response referred to a nexus of organised criminals, gun-runners and terrorists, and made no reference to the alleged plot to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) leader, declared a terrorist by India. However, the difference between India’s responses to allegations emanating from the US and a similar accusation by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau – which New Delhi dismissed as “absurd” – is a pointer to how seriously the latest developments are being taken by New Delhi.  The external affairs ministry has acknowledged that the case in a US court against an Indian is a “matter of concern” and “contrary to government policy”.

The inquiry committee set up by the government needs to get its work done speedily since India has clarified that, unlike in the case of Canada, the US has given specific details that can be investigated. India’s relationship with the US is currently the most crucial of its ties with all major powers and any issue with potential to affect these relations needs to be handled with abundant caution. All parties will hopefully get to the bottom of the matter and address whatever mutual suspicions exist.

However, the Indian side must provide detailed information to the US and Canada on Pannun’s activities, which are nothing less than seditious and extremist when viewed in the context of Indian security interests. Just in the past few months, he has held out threats to Indian missions, diplomats and airliners. The Khalistan campaign was no political movement, it made no bones about using terrorism and claimed the life of a serving Indian prime minister and thousands of people, including 268 Canadian citizens who were on board Air India flight 182 that was downed by Khalistani terrorists in 1985. The Khalistan movement created a fault line that is currently dormant but Pannun aims to make this come alive with the help of the diaspora. Washington and Ottawa should reflect if it is in their interest to allow American and Canadian soil to be used to whip up violence against a friendly, democratic nation.

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