From the comforts of Canada, India continues to be threatened: Is West taking note of it?
As Khalistani elements, backed by Ottawa, are threatening to target Air India flights across the world on November 19, Western countries which support Canada’s Justin Trudeau government in its blatant campaign to malign India, are surprisingly silent
In a veiled threat, hinting at a repeat of the 1985 Kanishka bombing, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (a resident of Canada and the US), head of the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) movement, stated in a video released early this month, “We are asking all Sikhs to avoid boarding Air India flights on November 19. On that day, there will be a global blockade, and Air India will not be allowed to fly anywhere across the world. Sikhs, you do not travel by Air India after November 19. It can be life-threatening. This is my warning to the government of India.”
November 19 also marks the 106th birth anniversary of Indira Gandhi and is the day when the finals of the ICC world cup will be played in Ahmedabad. Earlier in September, he had termed the ICC world cup as the “world terror cup.”
He had then warned that members of the SFJ will “storm Ahmedabad with Khalistani flags,” on the day of the first match. It was, as has been the case with most of Pannun’s threats, ‘much ado about nothing.’ Not a single Khalistani bothered to show up.
Pannun regularly makes announcements to remain in the limelight. He has a mediocre following in the US and Canada as some believe that the SFJ will deliver its promise of Khalistan, unaware that its leaders are raking in funds by broadcasting threats to satisfy their sponsors, mainly the ISI. Within India, the organization is largely frowned upon.
Since the killing of a number of ISI agents including members of Pakistani terrorist groups and Khalistan activists by ‘unknown gunmen,’ in both Canada and Pakistan, Pannun rarely steps out and when he does it is with bodyguards.
His ability to finance such protection can only flow from illicit funds, sources of which have never been investigated. There are also reports that he is a CIA asset. Fear of his life has reduced him to releasing videos carrying threats, which will never fructify, from the safety of his house.
As a precaution, the Indian government would demand additional security from Canada and the US for all flights leaving for India that day.
Within India, there would be additional measures adopted at airports. This is not due to Pannun’s ranting but because no threat to an airline is ignored. Even hoax calls are first acted upon, then investigated.
Global norms dictate that even a simple mention of hijacking demands immediate arrest and investigation. Flight passengers have been deboarded and arrested for merely joking about hijacking.
Here an individual is threatening to block movement of an airline and also blow up an aircraft belonging to a private airline and there has been no response. A similar threat to a US or Canadian aircraft would have resulted in a collection of inter-governmental memo’s requesting for action.
Currently, neither the US or Canadian government has acted on Pannun’s comment, while continuing to insist that Delhi cooperate with Ottawa in the investigation into the killing of Nijjar, a known terrorist. All this while Canada continues to permit its citizens to issue threats against Indian diplomatic staff as also destruction of its premises.
Indo-Canada ties are deteriorating mainly because Ottawa shelters anti-India movements on its soil while refusing to act on Delhi’s extradition requests and clamping down on terror financing. Instead, it provides them space under its policy of ‘freedom of speech and protest.’ Such is the deterioration in ties that no member of Justin Trudeau’s supporting party, the Jagmeet Singh led National Democratic Front, can ever visit India, irrespective of his position in the government.
On the Nijjar case, Indian High Commissioner to Canada, Sanjay Verma told media persons that Ottawa has provided no proof of Indian involvement in the killing of Nijjar as also that it illegally monitors Indian diplomatic communication.
He even claimed the investigation was biased by stating, “I would go a step further and say now the investigation has already been tainted.” None from the Canadian government responded to this accusation.
In a similar vein no Canadian diplomat questioned Jaishankar when he publicly accused Canada of interfering in India’s domestic matters as also issuing visas to known Khalistan supporters. India was right in its accusations. India’s threat to take Canada to the FATF has raised eyebrows amongst its allies as it would be the first western nation to be so accused. It may not be censured nor placed on any adverse list but would definitely be shamed.
India provided sufficient hints to Canada to change its approach. New Delhi ordered Canada to remove its additional diplomats, temporarily halted visa services at its high commission and consulates, while accusing it publicly of interference and wrongdoings.
However, Canada, caught on the wrong foot, tried to take the diplomatic route with Justin Trudeau raising Indian non-cooperation in his discussions with other global leaders, but to no avail.
This is akin to Pakistan raising Kashmir in every discussion with visiting dignitaries. The latest threat by Pannun, which may be just a cry for some attention for a dying cause, needs to be acted upon by the governments of both, the US and Canada, as it concerns targeting airlines by terrorism.
Ignoring it would send a global message that threatening to hijack is acceptable. It would also confirm that Pannun is protected by intelligence agencies of both the US and Canada.
If Canada is serious on reinstating Indo-Canadian ties, then it must act on what Sanjay Verma advised them, on behalf of New Delhi, “Don't allow your soil to be used by a group of Canadian citizens who want to dismember India and who want to challenge the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.”
India has hinted and it is up to Canada to act. For India, Pannun remains just a pinprick, whose words are akin to what Shakespeare said in Macbeth, ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.’
*** The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his own