Washington: Pakistan-backed Khalistani separatist groups, banned by the Indian government, are quietly gaining ground in the US, a top American think tank has warned, ruing that Washington has so far remained indifferent to the appeals made by New Delhi to curb their destabilising anti-India activities.
The US-based Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) is a pro-Khalistan group. In 2019, the Indian government banned it for its alleged anti-national activities.
The SFJ had pushed for Sikh Referendum 2020 as part of its separatist agenda. It openly espouses the cause of Khalistan and in that process challenges the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India. The outlawed group’s primary objective is to establish an “independent and sovereign country” in Punjab.
In its ‘Pakistan’s Destabilization Playbook: Khalistani Activism in the US’ report published on Tuesday, the Hudson Institute examines the conduct of Khalistan and Kashmir separatist groups within the United States to investigate their support by Pakistan.
The report looks at these groups’ ties to militant and terrorist outfits in India, and the possible detrimental effects of their activities on US foreign policy in South Asia.
The report demonstrates that “like Pakistan-based Islamist terrorist groups, the Khalistan groups can emerge under new names.
Unfortunately, the United States government has shown no interest in violence committed by Khalistan activists, even though the Khalistan campaign’s most ardent supporters are located in western countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada and the United States.
Unless the US government prioritises oversight of Khalistan-related militancy and terrorism, it is unlikely to identify groups that are currently engaged in violence in Punjab in India or are preparing to do so. One seldom finds what one is not looking for,” it said.
Anticipation constitutes a crucial part of national security planning and therefore investigating within the limits prescribed by law, the activities of Khalistani groups located in North America is important to preventing a reoccurrence of the violence orchestrated by the Khalistan movement in the 1980s, it said.
Importantly, the recent increase in Khalistan-related anti-India activism within the US is occurring as the United States and India are collaborating to confront the rise of China, especially in the Indo-Pacific, it said.
“The Khalistan movement’s history and recent mobilisation should serve as a reminder that, unless the threat it poses is somehow preempted, it could expand to a level where action might be too late to prevent large-scale loss of life,” it said.
The report calls upon the US government to take India’s concerns seriously and dedicate the requisite intelligence and law enforcement resources to help India address these concerns.
The report said the US government should include all groups responsible for terrorist attacks in India in its list of designated global terrorist groups and designate as terrorists the various individuals that India and US intelligence and law enforcement have established as being connected to designated terrorist entities.
Apply terror financing laws and regulations to the various groups espousing Kashmiri and Khalistan separatism; Investigate US-based groups espousing Kashmiri and Khalistan separatism for possible violations of US laws related to foreign funding.
Use legal means established specifically to combat terrorism, including FISA warrants, to monitor suspected Kashmiri and Khalistan terrorism sympathisers and advocates,” the report said.
Observing that Sikh radical groups are active in New York and in California, the report said that in addition to disseminating anti-India propaganda, the focus of these organisations is advocating the Khalistan cause and to secure support they target local politicians, US think tanks and human rights activists.
Khalistan activists also use Sikh places of worship, gurdwaras to attract followers, organising special events to commemorate the martyrdom’ of terrorists in Punjab.
They also commemorate Operation Blue Star and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots to proselytise younger Sikhs into believing that there is a religious conflict between Sikhs and other Indians, it added.