I first met Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in 2013 in New York as an NDTV journalist when he was trying to get Sonia Gandhi arrested based on a court warrant, at Sloan Kettering Hospital. The lawyer for Sikhs for Justice, projecting himself as a “human rights” activist, was named a terrorist by the Indian government in 2020.
Over the years, it astounded me that a man of such vicious hate against India, who was inciting violence in Punjab and had filed cases against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal, could be allowed to operate with such impunity in the US under the guise of free speech. He used every trick in the legal playbook to bring alive the 1984 Sikh genocide and tie it to the Khalistan cause, frequently bringing busloads of paid protestors outside the United Nations to espouse a preposterous narrative of a Canada-sponsored Sikh independent state and a Punjab Referendum by 2020. Incidentally, his partner at his Jackson Heights law office was Pakistani. By 2019, Pannun signed off his emails as the spokesperson for the KKRF, the Kashmir Khalistan Referendum Front. The head of Sikhs for Justice’s Canadian Chapter was Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Nijjar’s killing and the resultant rift between India and Canada expose a disturbing reality. A global power is playing a covert game.
Whether or not Justin Trudeau ratchets up the diplomatic offensive by going public with electronic evidence that reveals an Indian hand will be largely irrelevant, given the loud silence of Big Brother, south of the border. The boilerplate statements by the National Security Advisor pale when you compare them with its topmost leader President Joe Biden in the same week lauding the India-US business corridor. The strongest steel is forged on the hottest fire, and there is no greater friendship than one sealed to counter the primary adversary.
There is a rise of a new breed of Khalistan advocates who can, ironically, buy legitimacy from Western democracies who consider themselves champions of justice. Let aside Pannun, with his direct ties to the ISI, a far more nebulous order is shaping with charismatic leaders like Jagmeet Singh, the 42-year-old criminal defence lawyer who has risen to be the first non-white leader of a major Canadian federal party. The skateboarding TikTok star who was voted by GQ as the most stylish politician, can deliver eloquent speeches appealing to the new generation of Canadians, merging Sikh spiritual beliefs rooted in social justice, climate change and liberal values, yet embracing a toxic Khalistan commentary.
It is an undeniable fact that the pain of the November 1984 genocide can never be erased when the ruling party in India at the time did nothing to protect innocent Sikhs from being massacred and promoted the perpetrators to the highest positions in government. However, multiple Indian governments in the last 25 years have tried to recognize the horrific wrongs and made an outreach to the Sikh community.
Nonetheless, leaders such as Jagmeet Singh are reigniting inter-generational Sikh trauma buttons masked in persuasive rhetoric. But how can the Canadian Prime Minister himself be so short-sighted? It is no secret that Singh has been pulling Trudeau’s strings on the Nijjar killing, as he provides 24 seats to the political leader who, despite a 63% disapproval rating, is clinging to a moonshot attempt for a fourth term as Prime Minister. But does the Canadian PM, whose failure to act against Chinese interference in Canadian elections that caused him public ire, realize he is once again playing into the hands of that very global power?
The Khalistan movement, funded by Pakistan’s ISI whose recent bankruptcy has turned it into a proxy for Chinese intelligence is pushing Trudeau into a quagmire of his own making, acting publicly against a key strategic ally and compromising his country’s long-term geopolitical interests for a short-term victory at the polls.
The key premise of Sun Tzu’s Art of War is to “subdue an enemy without fighting.” The Chinese government is a master of misdirection using subversion tactics, internal meddling and stoking other countries’ vulnerabilities. It is now directing its resources and proxies to driving fissures in the coalition of global democracies that are forming against it. This elaborate smoke and mirror scheme of deception must be called out.
Mr. Trudeau, you just got played.
(Namrata Brar is an Indian-American journalist, investigative reporter and news anchor. She is the former US bureau chief for NDTV.)
Disclaimer: These are the personal opinions of the author.