Pannun says India’s “transnational terrorism” is a direct challenge to US dominance
- The US has raised the issue of the assassination with India at the “highest levels”.
- Prosecutors filed a sealed indictment against the alleged perpetrator.
- The revelations follow the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.
LONDON: Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, the Sikh General Counsel for Justice (SFJ) and pro-Khalistan Sikh leader, has responded to the Indian assassination plot revealed in a report by Financial Times (FT).
After the United States warned India that Pannun’s planned assassination made global headlines, the Sikh leader responded by saying the plot to kill him on American soil by Indian death squads “directly challenged” Washington’s sovereignty and national security.
Reacting to FT pointing out that US authorities, at the last minute, foiled an Indian state plot to kill the Khalistani leader on US soil, Pannu said he was not and would not be deterred by Indian plots against him.
Meanwhile, the US government, in a statement, responded by saying it has discussed the issue of India’s attempts to kill Pannun “at the highest levels” with the Narendra Modi government.
Pannun, who is based in New York, said: “India’s transnational terrorism has become a direct challenge to the sovereignty of the United States, so I will leave it to the US government to answer the issue of threats against my life on American soil by the Indian agents.
“My concern is that the Sikh Community has faced an existential threat at the hands of successive Indian regimes since 1984 Operation Blue Star, November 1984 Genocide, decades (1984-97) of extrajudicial killings of Sikhs to suppress the movement for the right to self-determination and now the forced suicide of Punjab farmers.
“Right now my focus is not on threats to my life, but on organizing the American Phase of the Khalistan Referendum, which is scheduled to begin from San Francisco, California on January 28, 2024, under the supervision of the Referendum Commission of Punjab, a group of independent experts on direct democracy.
“Believing that independence from Indian occupation and the establishment of Khalistan is the only solution, Sikh rulers launched the global initiative for the Khalistan Referendum to peacefully advance the cause of liberation of Indian-controlled Punjab.
“As General Counsel of SFJ, my responsibility is to organize the separatist Khalistan Referendum for the liberation of Indian-controlled Punjab and to follow the UN Charter and the internal laws of the countries where the vote is held to ensure compliance with democratic rules.
“Just as the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar by Indian agents on Canadian soil was a challenge to Canada’s sovereignty, the threat to an American citizen on American soil is a challenge to America’s sovereignty, and I believe the Biden administration is more than capable of handling any such challenge.”
In a statement after the assassination plot was revealed, the White House said it was “taking this matter with the utmost seriousness.”
National Security Council (NSC) spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said the US had raised the issue with New Delhi “at the highest levels”.
Watson said: “We understand that the Indian government is investigating this matter further and will have more to say about it in the coming days. We have conveyed our expectation that whoever is found responsible will be held to account.”
The FT revealed in a report that US authorities foiled an Indian plot to kill the pro-Khalistan leader on US soil and issued a warning to the Indian government over concerns that he was involved in the plot.
The sources familiar with the case, who requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the information that prompted the alert, said FT the Indian government was behind the conspiracy to kill Pannun, who is running a global campaign called the Khalistan Referendum, in which over 1.3 million Sikhs have voted so far.
The American sources did not say FT whether the protest in New Delhi led the conspirators to abandon their plan, or whether the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) intervened and foiled a plan that had already begun.
The US informed some allies of the plan after the assassination of Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader who was killed in Vancouver in June.
In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” linking New Delhi to Nijar’s fatal shooting. The FT said a person familiar with the situation said the US protest was issued after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s official visit to Washington in June.
The FT revealed that in addition to the diplomatic warning, US federal prosecutors have filed a sealed indictment against at least one alleged perpetrator of the conspiracy in a New York district court, according to people familiar with the case.
The US Justice Department is debating whether to unseal the indictment and make the allegations public or wait until Canada completes its investigation into Nijjar’s murder, the newspaper said.
Washington shared details of the Pannun case with a wider group of allies after Trudeau released details of the killing in Vancouver, the combination of which sparked concern among allies about a possible pattern of behavior.
SFJ called to picket Air India flights to Toronto and Vancouver on December 1st. The group announced that the American phase of the Khalistan referendum will begin on January 28, 2024, from San Francisco.
That’s what several people familiar with the conversation within the Biden administration said FT Officials knew that any public disclosure of the US plan, and Washington’s protest in New Delhi, would renew questions about India’s credibility as a reliable partner, the report said. FT.
The FT previously reported that Biden raised the Canadian allegations with Modi at the G20 summit in India in September. The White House declined to say whether Biden raised the Pannun case with Modi in September.
U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen also said in September that Ottawa received information about the Vancouver case from the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing network, which includes the U.S., U.K., Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Just a few months ago, Nijjar – the lead coordinator of the Khalistan Referendum campaign in Canada and a close associate of Pannun – was killed on Canadian soil by Indian intelligence agents. Trudeau has directly blamed India.
Nijjar, 45, was fatally shot outside the main Sikh temple in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver with a significant Sikh population.
UK-based Nijjar, Pannun, Paramjeet Singh Pamma and others were designated as terrorists by the Indian government in 2020.
Nijjar was also President of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in British Columbia – Canada’s largest Gurdawara.
The Khalistan Referendum voting campaign is being organized under the supervision of the independent Punjab Referendum Commission (PRC) which will announce the results when all phases are completed.
Voting started on 31 October 2021 in London, UK and has so far taken place in many cities across the UK.
Voting has also taken place in Geneva, Switzerland, Rome and Milan, Italy, Melbourne, Australia, Brisbane and Sydney. and Canada’s Brampton, Mississauga, Malton (Ontario) and Vancouver (British Columbia).
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