US Is Now Openly Shielding A Terrorist. India Must Not Capitulate

Ujjwal Shrotryia

Mar 22, 2024, 02:18 PM | Updated 02:18 PM IST

Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.
Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.
  • India must disabuse the US of the notion that it can get away with shielding those who hurt its interests.
  • The Joe Biden administration in the United States (US) is now openly shielding Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu.

    US State Department diplomat for Central and South Asia, Donald Lu, said on Wednesday (20 March) that the alleged murder plot of Pannu is “a serious issue” between both governments and the US administration is taking the issue “very seriously”.

    On the same day, Bloomberg came out with a report, citing unnamed officials, that some rogue Indian government officials with no authorisation from New Delhi were involved in the murder-for-hire plot of Pannu in New York.

    The Indian government has not made any statements regarding revelations in the Bloomberg report.

    Statements by Donald Lu and the claims made by the Bloomberg report suggest that the US is openly trying to shield a terrorist under the usual trope of 'freedom of speech'.

    How threatening to kill India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Punjab Bhagwant Singh Mann, blowing up the National Stock Exchange (NSE) and Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE), and asking for the bombing of a civilian airliner, is covered by the 'freedom of speech' belies all logic.

    Pannu, who is the leader of Khalistani terrorist organisation Sikh for Justice (SFJ), has been under the radar of various Indian agencies for terrorism, contract killings, drug running, and running extortion rackets.

    India declared SFJ as a terror organisation in 2019.

    The US wants the Indian government to take action on the alleged murder-for-hire ‘plot’ all the while conveniently ignoring Pannu and SFJ’s threats against India and high-ranking Indian embassy officials.

    Pannu and his terror group SFJ blocked India’s consulate in San Francisco when National Investigation Agency (NIA) officials visited the US (in January 2024), celebrated the assassins of former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi, Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, apart from announcing a $10,000 bounty for Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Verma.

    This was the second attack on the consulate in San Francisco.

    Last year in March, protesters tried to burn the consulate and smashed windows and doors at the consulate. No action has been taken against the perpetrators involved in both cases.

    Not only do they want India to promptly conduct an inquiry but also take 'criminal' actions as soon as possible, while no reciprocal action is taken against Pannu and his Khalistani terrorists.

    The US has neither acted upon nor held accountable any Khalistanis involved in terror and criminal activities against Indians both in India and in the US, against whom India has shared numerous proofs and evidence with US authorities from time to time.

    Moreover, the extradition of Tahawwur Rana, a Pakistani-origin Canadian businessman who was involved in planning the 26/11 terror attacks in Mumbai along with another Pakistani-American Daood Sayed Gilani (aka David Coleman Headley — who is serving 35 years in prison for taking part in the planning of 26/11 attacks), is held up by the US government for more than a decade.

    It is more than apparent that the US government does not want the extradition to happen and is hiding behind the excuse of due process (a US court is yet to give a decision on Rana's extradition petition).

    In fact, the Indian government should not have agreed to have the inquiries in the first place, unless preceded by visible US actions against Pannu, his accomplices, and the 26/11 convicts Rana and Headley.

    Just because a charge sheet has been filed by the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in some New York district court, India is not obligated to start inquiries.

    Fortunately for India, and unfortunately for the US government, neither the US DoJ nor the New York District Court exercises any jurisdiction in India.

    This also gives the impression that the US enjoys special rights and is treated by a different yardstick as opposed to other nations that are answerable and accountable for similar actions — the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani — is the latest case that comes to mind.

    This selective scrutiny by the US not only frustrates India but also raises concerns about the consistency of international law enforcement and the principles guiding it.

    India’s concerns for the safety of its citizens are subject to scrutiny by some US State Department officials — who are unaware of the complex history of the region — and the whims and fancies and ideological leanings of the US administration of the day, while not being the case if the tables are turned around.

    While the US can assassinate anybody threatening US citizens anywhere in the world, others cannot even get them listed as terrorists.

    The reluctance of international bodies like Interpol to act against Pannu is a clear example of the double standards. Notably, Interpol has rejected India’s request for issuing a red corner notice against Pannu.

    If other nations try to take actions, attempts are made to discredit them by raising another trope — violations of human rights.

    When the US does it, it is a victory of good over evil. When other nations try to take similar actions for to safeguard their interests, it is regarded as violations of international law.

    This was made even worse by the meek response of the Indian government, acquiescing to US demands for holding a probe against the officers involved without demanding concrete results of the inquiries and actions taken against the perpetrators of attacks on Indian consulates.

    India should stand its ground and not capitulate to US demands, and tell the US that it must not shield those who are openly hurting its interests. New Delhi should ask for reciprocal and visible actions against Pannu, his SFJ accomplices, and address the larger Khalistani menace in the US.

    Editorial Associate at Swarajya. Writes on Indian Military and Defence.

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