Can the West avoid defining terrorism according to its own suitability?
Despite his regular threats to India and its interests from their soil, neither the US nor Canada has acted against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, instead, both countries permit him and other anti-India elements to do whatever they want. By doing so, what strategic goal do they want to achieve?
Speaking on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of peaceful protest and it is extremely important to us. At the same time, we are always there to prevent violence and to push back against hatred.” He was defending the Canadian government’s actions – or rather, lack of it – against protests and threats emanating from supporters of Khalistan.
However, what he forgot to mention was that even violence by Khalistani elements against Indian diplomatic assets and Hindu religious places has been considered peaceful by his government. After all, Canada has failed to act against those who vandalized Indian diplomatic property in Canada and threatened its diplomats.
On the contrary, peaceful protests by truckers in Ottawa were considered anti-national and suppressed under Canada’s draconian ‘Emergency Act.’ They were arrested, fined, their bank accounts frozen and assets seized. Why were the two protests, one violent damaging Indian diplomatic property and the other peaceful, protesting against the Vaccine policy, dealt with differently?
It was because one was against another country, India, while the other impacted the Canadian economy including trade with the US. It also conveyed that those considered terrorists by India are protected by Ottawa.
Canada accused India, even before investigations concluded, of being involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a declared terrorist on its soil. It has repeatedly asked India to cooperate in the investigation. It claims it has evidence but refuses to share it.
For Canada, elimination of a terrorist is a matter of concern. On the other hand, it termed the murder of Karima Baloch, a known Balochistan activist living in self-exile in Canada, as ‘non-criminal.’
She was on the hit-list of Pakistan’s Inter- Services Intelligence, which had threatened to eliminate her, solely because she fought for rights of the Baloch people, suppressed by the Pakistan Army. Despite a call by her relatives, friends and Amnesty international, which claimed it was a murder, Canada did not look into the case with a homicide angle.
The difference between Nijjar and Karima’s killing is that while Karima Baloch’s death will not impact domestic politics, Nijjar’s murder will, as pro-Khalistan elements are a political force in Canada, propping up the Trudeau government.
The US has refused to act against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who claims to be the founder of the SFJ (Sikhs for Justice) and has been regularly threatening India. He threatened to blow up Indian aircraft and also attack the parliament. While India is aware that he is a blabbermouth, his spewing threats, especially against passenger aircraft, does demand investigation under global norms.
Fox News reported, over the weekend, that a US teenager, Robert Trout III, aged 19, who threatened to cause havoc on the subway by shooting people at random on Thanksgiving Day, was arrested and faces a five-year sentence. A similar threat against a US airline would also have been acted against differently.
These would have been considered federal offences. Pannun’s followers have attacked Indian diplomatic assets in the US and Canada, with no police action. Threats to India do not even warrant an investigation. Evidently, the US treats threats to its own and on others soil differently.
In the case of both Nijjar and Pannun, India has repeatedly presented evidence to the US and Canada on their involvement in killings within India, drug and arms smuggling as also extortion, but they have failed to act.
The recent arrest in Punjab of Mandeep Singh, a Canadian citizen, and an associate of Nijjar, planning to murder political and religious leaders is a case in point. Inputs shared with these countries would be repeated when the Director FBI visits India this week. It remains unlikely that the US will act. On the contrary, the US wants India to investigate its involvement in the suspected attempt on Pannun. Despite India’s denial, the US continues to exert pressure on India.
Even a fake Indian memo was released to push New Delhi to admit to its involvement, which it denies. India has opened an investigation as it claims that inputs provided by the US impact national security. What will ultimately emerge is unknown. While Nijjar was being met by representatives of Canada’s intelligence agencies regularly, Pannun is provided protection by the US government.
The message being conveyed is that the US considers Khalistan promoters as assets and not terrorists as they could, at some stage, be employed to apply pressure on India. The US is aware that the idea of Khalistan is being promoted by the Pakistan deep state hoping to resurrect the insurgency in Punjab.
Regular meetings of ISI agents with leaders of the Khalistan movement have occurred on the soil of the US and Canada, yet they have ignored it. Such a casual approach from so-called strategic allies is unacceptable; however, this appears to be a global norm. Pakistan backed the Taliban in Afghanistan, despite it being declared a global terrorist organization, as it believed it was in its strategic interest.
The Taliban was sequestered in Quetta throughout the NATO involvement in Afghanistan. For Pakistan, removal of the US and the democratic government in Kabul was a priority as it would eliminate Indian influence and enhance its strategic depth. It continues to provide similar support to other anti-India terrorist groups operating in Kashmir.
Hamas is a known terrorist organization but for some nations, including Qatar and Pakistan, they are freedom fighters. Even the UNSC has been unable to declare Hamas as global terrorists due to the intervention of China and Russia. While Israel has declared LeT (Lashkar-e-Taiba) as a terrorist organization, India has not done the same for Hamas, basically because of its ties with the Palestinian Authority.
There are many more examples of terrorist groups who have operated or continue to operate in parts of the world, supported by major powers for their own strategic interests. It is a fact that one nation’s terrorists are considered another’s assets. This has resulted in the UN being unable to define terrorism, despite years of discussion.
It is with the intent of being able to possess long-term strategic leverage over India that the US protects Pannun and permits him to build his Khalistan movement. Canada is a US lackey and hence follows US directions.
Like Canada, the other few nations which have permitted the movement to display its power are also US partners in the ‘Five Eyes’ alliance - the UK, Australia, and New Zealand. India is aware that even so-called strategic allies will always attempt to maintain some form of leverage against it. Ultimately, it will have to ensure its own protection from such moves.
*** The writer is a security and strategic affairs commentator; views expressed are his own