The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray is expected to visit India next week. His visit comes amid the controversy over an alleged bid to assassinate Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an American citizen, for which the US government has levelled allegations against an Indian national and an Indian agency official.
Later, Pannun threatened that he would attack the Parliament on or before December 13 over the alleged plot.
Geopolitical experts said that New Delhi should increase the pressure on the US and Canada to set up an enquiry into why their governments are “shielding some key Khalistani elements”. There cannot be genuine counter-terrorism cooperation between the US and India unless New Delhi’s concerns are addressed, said the experts in a panel discussion with India Today TV’s Managing Editor Gaurav Sawant.
WHY NO ACTION BY US, CANADA?
Brahma Chellaney, a former member of the National Security Advisory Board, listed the various attacks carried out by Khalistani elements including the attacks on the Indian consulate, the link to the death of singer Sidhu Moose Wala and the multiple threats issued by Pannun. He said the “time has come” for India to raise its voice “as to why the US government is allowing such elements to act with impunity from American soil”.
Chellaney said the larger issue is that the US is focused on “how it can derive strategic benefits in the Indo-Pacific by partnering with India and not on how it can contribute to bolstering India’s security”. He added that India’s response to the US’s allegations which were raised at the highest level may have been “low-key” but New Delhi has left “no doubt that unless its concerns are addressed, there can be no genuine counter-terrorism cooperation”.
Terry Milewski, a Canadian journalist, said the talks with the FBI Director could be a “dialogue of the deaf” as it is possible that he would be reluctant to address India’s concerns and instead would press on the alleged plot to kill Pannun on American soil. He added that the US and Canada “claim to be” strategic partners with India but have taken a “who cares attitude” when it comes to cracking down on Khalistani threats.
Milewski said he thinks the US and Canada “still don’t get” that strategic ties have to be two-sided. He said that till now, the US and Canada “have looked the other way” when it comes to taking action against Khalistani issues because the crimes were happening in India.
Tara Kartha, an author, said if the FBI chief refuses to talk about the Khalistani issues, it would be contradictory to the bureau’s charter, which she quoted as saying, “The bureau works closely with its partners to neutralise terrorist cells and operatives here in the United States.”
She argued that the US-based Sikhs for Justice, led by Pannun, operates across several countries including the UK and Pakistan and has been involved in several terrorist activities.
INACTION DESPITE EVIDENCE
When asked about evidence that could be produced in a court of law to take action against Khalistani elements, Shashi Kant, the former Director General of Punjab Police, said India has sent as many as 26 letters to Canada and the US providing them with evidence of terrorist acts on their soil.
“They have given names, proofs, because I know that once upon a time, I also made such papers and gave out sufficient proof,” said Kant. He added that the US and Canadian governments have not been taking any action and “it is about time that India takes up this particular issue because bilateral relations can’t be one-sided”.
The former Punjab DGP also narrated about his experience while working at the External Affairs Ministry and said whenever the Khalistan issue was brought up in meetings, the response of the concerned countries used to be, “Hey, let’s first talk about the things on which we agree. We’ll talk about other issues later on.”
Terry Milewski also accused Canada of historically ignoring India’s warnings about potential threats. He added that before the 1985 Air India flight bombing which led to the death of 329 people, Canadian authorities were warned about the attack three weeks prior.
“There was an explicit warning from Air India to Canada, specifically to Toronto Airport and to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). That was just three weeks before the Air India bombing…which said ‘We have specific intelligence that these terrorists are trying to plant bombs on Air India planes’, which is exactly what happened,” said Milewski.
He added that the RCMP’s response was to dismiss the warning and they did not inform their partners in the security agencies.
“That’s the standard of how Canada has reacted historically to these kinds of threats, and it’s inexcusable,” said the journalist.
According to Terry Milewski, the Indian government has to “give up something” if it wants to see action taken on the issues which concern the country.
Referring to the alleged plot to murder Pannun, he said, “They (Indian government) have to give up something. And that means giving up some admission that maybe it was a rogue operation. We didn’t approve it. But, yeah, there was an Indian government employee involved in plotting the assassination of Pannun.”
Milewski said that to have a conclusive discussion, India has to assure the FBI chief that it will take action against the government agency employee whom the US alleged was the mastermind behind the plot.
He added that if ‘CC-1’, the alleged mastermind, is found guilty, action should be taken against the person.
According to an indictment filed in a Manhattan court, ‘CC-1’ is the unnamed person who allegedly “directed” the plot to kill Pannun ‘from India’.
‘US BEHIND TRUDEAU’S ALLEGATIONS AGAINST INDIA’
Brahma Chellaney alleged that the US was behind the allegations raised against India by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. In September, the Canadian PM had said that there was a “potential link” between the Indian government and the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
“It’s becoming increasingly apparent that when Trudeau made his bombshell allegation on the floor of the Canadian parliament, it was being guided by US input. The US was very much behind Trudeau’s allegation against India,” said Chellaney.
He accused the US of then deciding to “come after India” with the alleged plot to kill Pannun after Trudeau did not provide evidence backing his claim.
Chellaney also alleged that there is a “longstanding connection between intelligence or security agencies in the Anglosphere and prominent overseas-based Khalistanis”.
“After Nijjar was killed, FBI agents individually went and warned prominent Khalistanis living in the US, especially in California, to step up their security,” he added.
He further said that Nijjar “had a nexus with Canada’s main intelligence agency”.
“The main Canadian intelligence agency’s officers were meeting with Nijjar on a regular basis in the months leading up to his killing. Now, nobody’s asking, what were these connections all about? Why were Canadian intelligence officers meeting with Nijjar on a regular basis, two or three times a week, according to his son, as quoted in The Vancouver Sun? This nexus between agencies and prominent Khalistanis is something that India needs to seek answers about,” added Chellaney.