India exporting terrorism to NATO member states

Indian government has been unleashing brutal state power to crush political dissent

Zahid Ul Hassan January 30, 2024
The author is Director Research at the Center for International Strategic Studies Sindh (CISSS) Karachi.


On 29 November 2023, Federal Prosecutors of the American Justice Department filed explosive charges in a New York Court against an ‘identified Indian government employee’ regarding a plot to kill a US citizen Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on the US soil. The 15-page indictment carried timeline-based communication and human intelligence evidence about the Indian subversive plan to assassinate US and Canadian citizens in the US and Canada respectively. The plot revealed unambiguous communication excerpts between a senior Indian Intelligence operative named as CC-1 in the indictment, an undercover agent of the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and an Indian middle man Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman, another US undercover agent, to undertake assassinations. CC-1 through Nikhil Gupta paid $15,000 as advance money of the agreed $100,000 for the murder with an alluring promise to provide more targets for further killings. The murder plot, busted on 29 June 2023 with the arrest of Nikhil Gupta in Prague, also established direct links between the Indian government officials and the assassination of Canadian Citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June last year. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had levelled serious allegations in the parliament against the Indian government regarding its involvement in the murder of Nijjar and described the incident as ‘violation of its sovereignty’. Ironically, these were not the isolated events, rather they were a sequel to the earlier mysterious killing of a Sikh national, Avtar Singh Khanda, in the UK. However, the British government opted not to raise its concerns due to political reasons.

Earlier, on 25 September 2023, The Washington Post substantiated Prime Minister Trudeau’s allegations when it revealed part of the evidence based on eyewitness accounts and CCTV video that indicated execution of a coordinated attack by six gunmen using two vehicles to assassinate Nijjar. The attackers used automated weapons to spray 50 bullets out of which 34 hit the victim. Later, CC-1 also shared footage of Nijjar’s killing with the likely hitmen of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. These stunning revelations and associated communication intercepts added up to irrefutable evidence as to Indian government’s culpability in Nijjar’s gruesome murder. Imagine if complete range of evidence including direct communication intercepts, record of meetings, details of assets used (vehicles, weapons, ammunition and funds), identification of attackers, abettors and facilitators and their linkage with the Indian authorities were publically revealed, it would not only further humiliate the Indian government but also bring disastrous consequences for the global power ambitions of India.

Paradoxically, Indian government responded differently to two similar situations. In Nijjar’s case, it appeared that public revelations by Prime Minister Trudeau caught the Indians off guard. Instead of accepting its involvement in the assassination of Nijjar on Canadian soil, Indian government responded with arrogance, launched a diplomatic offensive against Ottawa and outright called the allegations ‘absurd’. Shrieking Indian media, in its usual jingoistic chorus, went berserk and even tacitly allowed Professor Kapil Kumar, a renowned Indian scholar and close aide of the Indian Prime Minister, to threaten Canada to be ‘nuked’ on a national TV channel, without realising that being a NATO member state, Canada is protected by Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty which commits each member state to consider armed attack against one member state to be an armed attack against them all. Ironically, the Indian government also did not issue any clarification or distanced itself from the statement of the Professor.

Contrarily, Indian response to similar US allegations was more cautious and somewhat receptive as spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs, Mr Arindam Bagchi, termed the US allegations ‘a matter of concern’ and promised thorough investigation. Owing to its vital stakes in India, Washington finds itself in a dilemma to either stand with its NATO allies and protect the Western liberal democratic values or fall prey to its geopolitical compulsions, while inaction is not an option. Nevertheless, despite its so-called geopolitical relevance, India for the first time since 1968 has been compelled to abandon RAW’s intelligence operations in Washington DC, San Francisco, Ottawa and London.

Indian government has been unleashing brutal state power to crush political dissent and export terrorism to its neighbouring countries with impunity. In January 2017, Pakistan handed over a dossier to the UN Secretary General along with a confessional statement of Indian spy Commander Kulbhushan Jadhav, a serving naval officer working for RAW, who was travelling on a fake passport with identity of Hussain Mubarak Patel, containing irrefutable evidence and proof of Indian involvement in terrorism inside Pakistan. In August 2022, eight Indian navy officers were arrested in Qatar on charges of espionage and subsequently sentenced to death. However, Western exceptionalism has emboldened New Delhi to expand its state-sponsored terror network to Western countries as well. As a consequence, Sikh nationals in Canada, Australia, Italy, the US and the UK have expressed fear that Indian authorities may crush their political dissent by killing them. According to media reports, Canadian authorities warned Gurmeet Singh Toor, a close associate of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, about threat to his life posed by Indian agents. All of these incidents bear testimony to the fact that Indian state-sponsored terrorism has transcended Indian neighbourhood and has not spared even NATO member states. The situation is too serious to be shrugged off and India cannot get away by merely stating that ‘this is contrary to the government policy’.

Seemingly, India has grossly overestimated its global relevance and wrongly assumed that it could get away with the killing of political dissidents in NATO member states as well. The Indian Minister of External Affairs appeared perplexed and short of words while defending his country against charges of exporting terrorism during his talk at the US Council on Foreign Relations in September last year. Although India has been presenting itself as victim of terrorism, in reality, it has become the epicentre of international terrorism. Pakistan, as a victim of Indian terrorism, has been alerting the international community of the dangers posed by Indian state-sponsored terrorism to the regional and international peace and security. Strong measures are therefore necessary to discipline India by leveraging instruments such as FATF.

Published in The Express Tribune, January 30th, 2024.

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