Khalistan case will test the durability of India’s ties with America
WASHINGTON — America’s five Indian-descent lawmakers recently warned India of “significant damage” to bilateral ties if it did not adequately address concerns around an indictment charging Indian of plotting to kill a Khalistani activist.
There was not a word in their strongly-worded statement about the responsibilities of its own government to investigate and stop US-based Khalistani separatism and terrorism that came along with it that had claimed thousands of lives in the 1980s in India and abroad, including then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
Washington had become responsive to Indian entreaties later and apprehended US-based separatists.
The government in Canada is treating Khalistani separatists with equal indulgence.
Indulging an extremist cause with a history of terrorism in the name of freedom of speech and expression is supporting terrorism. Pakistan practised it as a strategic maneuver to weaken India, but it has been its worst victim.
No one has been arrested for the attacks on the Indian consulate in San Francisco in March and July.
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan had said in a post on X, which was Twitter at the time, “We condemn the acts of violence against the Indian Consulate.”
Mathew Miller, the state department spokesperson, had said after the second incident that “vandalism or violence against diplomatic facilities or foreign diplomats in the US is a criminal offence”.
No update has been reported by local or federal authorities on these attacks.
“Unfortunately, we cannot speak to open investigations, there are no updates we can supply,” a spokesperson for the San Francisco police department had said in response to a request for an update in September.
The same month, India’s National Investigation Agency (NIA), a specialist body set up after the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attacks, issued photographs of 10 persons it has accused of involvement in the March attack.
The agency had registered a case regarding the incident and a team came to the San Francisco consulate to investigate in August. It also raided 14 locations in Punjab and Haryana in November in connection with these attacks.
But no arrests have been made or cases have been filed in the US yet.
The US has been generally quite leery about “dossiers” submitted by India seeking action against leading actors of Khalistani separatism based in the US, according to people who spoke on condition of anonymity.
They lacked the specificity of the indictment filed by the US Attorney for the Southern District of New York against an Indian man, Nikhil Gupta, who has been charged with trying to hire a contract killer to kill a Khalistani separatist who has not been named, but is believed to be Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the self-styled general counsel of a body called Sikhs for Justice.
Both are proscribed entities in India, which has designated Pannun an international terrorist.
Washington was more accommodative of New Delhi’s concerns once upon a time. The US was then led by President Ronald Reagan, a Republican.
“Sikh terrorism threatens US interests in India, in part because the extremists’ primary target is Prime Minister Gandhi,” said a classified CIA document from 1987, referring to then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
“Delhi’s favourable response to US policy initiatives during the last two years has depended heavily on Rajiv Gandhi remaining in power. No successor is likely to be as motivated or have sufficient political standing to continue improving ties with (sic) the United States,” the document added.
New Delhi needs the same recognition and support at this time.