Think Tanks belong to that part of every nation’s war chest that anticipates future threats from outside, and brewing, stewing threats inside, making them as important as actual tanks in a war. One such think tank, the Hudson Institute, has red-flagged an alarming trend for both India and the Indian diaspora, warning the Indian and US authorities of something called the Pakistan Destabilisation Playbook: Khalistan Separatist Activism within the US, and its possibly dangerous consequences for the Bhartiya people.
The Hudson Institute is a research organisation promoting American leadership and global engagement. Founded in 1961 by a strategist called Herman Kahn, the institute seeks to guide public policy and global leadership in both government and business through a vigorous program of publications, conferences, briefings, and recommendations, mainly by anticipating future events and trends through vast interdisciplinary research.
In their latest report, they have warned the US authorities of a spike in Pakistani and Khalistani activities being funded and played out on their soil, with only one specific aim, which is to hurt India.
Pak Safe Haven for Terrorists
The report initially mentions how for years, the United States and for that matter, most from the international community have condemned both Pakistan’s tolerance of and support for terrorism. Moreover, it quotes the US Department of State’s Country Report on Pakistan stating, “Pakistan continued to serve as a safe haven for certain regionally-focused terrorist groups. It allowed groups targeting Afghanistan, including the Afghan Taliban and affiliated HQN [Haqqani Network], as well as groups targeting India, including LeT (Lashkar-e-Tayyaba) and its affiliated front organisations, and JeM (Jaish-e-Mohammed), to operate from its territory.”
The report then also goes on to state how, “Islamabad has yet to take decisive actions against Indian and Afghanistan-focused militants who would undermine their operational capability.” The Indian Government and several independent scholars — both Indian and international — have always believed that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the Khalistan movement, are parts of Pakistan’s proxy war plan for “bleeding India with a thousand cuts.” And how US soil is now being increasingly used to strengthen these movements, and the Government should be aware of it and discourage such activities completely and immediately.
A lot of millennials might not know the exact origin and evolution of the Khalistani movement.
Mission to Create Khalistan
For many years, a few members of the Sikh diaspora located in countries like America and Canada have supported the creation of a separate state for Sikhs—called Khalistan—in the Indian state of Punjab bordering Pakistan on one side and the extremely problematic and volatile Jammu and Kashmir region on the other. While demands for a separate Sikh state were voiced even before 1947, Sikh militants did not begin employing violence to voice these demands until the late 1970s and continued to do so aggressively through the early 1990s.
In 1984, the then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi dispatched the Indian Army to oust militants and their leaders from the holiest of Sikh shrines—the Golden Temple—which the Khalistani militants had occupied with weapons brought from Pakistan.
This operation, called Blue Star, backfired, as it also hurt many innocents as collateral damage, and in turn served to further galvanise Sikhs living abroad, followed by Sikh militants’ 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Though the movement had remained dormant after the 1990s, it has risen its head and shown a spike in recent years, so curtailment of diaspora-based efforts to re-invigorate it must be undertaken.
Not only that, according to the report, cooperation between Khalistani and Kashmiri groups has become increasingly apparent in North America and should be of bigger concern. For example, in August 2020, Khalistani and Kashmiri activists staged a joint demonstration in New York against India and other such protests of Khalistani and Kashmiri separatists that have occurred in Washington DC, Houston, Ottawa, London, and European capitals.
The report reiterates how 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 prevent a recurrence of the violence exhibited by the Khalistan movement in the 1980s.
One should note how a similar report from the MacDonald Laurier Institute provides details of recent Khalistani group activities in Canada.
The main question one should ask is: what’s connecting these groups to one another, especially when Sikhs are being driven out of Afghanistan and Pakistan facing atrocities? Ethnic cleansing, forced conversion, attacks on gurdwaras, and migration have ensured that Sikhs, like Hindus and Christians, are currently a minuscule, endangered minority within Pakistan. Nonetheless, ironically, Pakistan has long championed the Khalistan struggle, both inside India and among the Sikh diaspora, and covertly supported both the Khalistan insurgency in Punjab and its anti-India recruitment and propaganda campaign around the world.
The only connecting cause here is that they have a shared political interest—to destabilise India, following mostly some common modus operandi, organising joint events, and sharing lawyers, donors, and accountants.
To know the extent of this insidious, interconnected, mutually benefitting network and ecosystem, one must remember a man called Ghulam Nabi Fai.
He is an American citizen of Kashmiri origin, who founded the organisation, Kashmiri American Council in the United States and carried out lobbying apparently on behalf of “Kashmiri Separatism”. In 2011, the US Government found out that this was actually a front group for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, the ISI.
Fai was then arrested by the FBI, the same year, for concealing the transfer of 3.5 million US dollars from Pakistan’s ISI to fund his lobbying efforts and influence the US Government on the Kashmir conflict, in violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. His arrest came right at a time when relations between the United States and Pakistan were particularly strained, following the aftermath of the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan, and while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was visiting India. Fai later pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion and got indicted.
The involvement of Fai and Kashmir-related groups should be taken seriously, especially in today’s US-based Khalistan milieu. For years, the KAC had “held itself out as an organisation, run by Kashmiris, financed by Americans and dedicated to raising the level of knowledge in the United States about the struggle of the Kashmiri people for self-determination”, but according to court documents, the KAC was secretly funded by officials employed by the government of Pakistan, including the Inter-Services Intelligence.
Rise in Hate Crimes Against Hindus
Pakistan’s strategy has always been to damage India by exploiting its religious and political fault lines and by supporting violent, extremist, and separatist movements across various parts of India. Internal politics in the Indian state of Punjab and Pakistan’s ambitions are coinciding today, from which the Khalistan movement has once again emerged.
Since farmers’ protests broke down in India, several cases of hate crimes against Hindus have been reported, especially in Canada and America. For instance, during Holi celebrations in April this year, a group of around 100 protesters barged into the area where around 400 Hindus were celebrating. They reportedly started shouting slogans against Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Indian government. They also blocked the route on which the “Tiranga Yatra” was supposed to take place. The event was delayed for around three hours, reportedly, as Khalistani flags were raised by the protestors.
These incidents should not seem random as it’s becoming apparent how Khalistani forces based out of Canada have joined hands with Islamists and are working in the background to discredit or damage the image of India. In March 2021, a Jodhveer Singh Dhaliwal, a known Khalistani sympathiser came under investigation after videos of him attacking Hindus at the Tiranga rally went viral.
The Indian Government and several independent scholars — both Indian and international — have always believed that militancy in Jammu and Kashmir, as well as the Khalistan movement, are parts of Pakistan’s proxy war plan for “bleeding India with a thousand cuts”
The reason why these activities are gaining more impetus is because they want to strongly peddle an anti-Modi and anti-India narrative abroad. By talking about the farmer’s protest outside, the effort is to divert the conversation to a place where India is shown as undemocratic. Even within India, On January 26, the farmers' protest got hijacked and ushered it into a highly charged political space.
Kashmir 2 Khalistan Referendum 2020 was a movement, which got moved to 2022 because of COVID-19. According to the experts at Hudson, last year a group called Sikhs for Justice sent letters to President Putin, President Xi Jinping, Imran Khan for support for Referendum 2020 and the Khalistani movement. They have also sent emails to the Hudson department showing their pledge of 1mn dollars to aid the Taliban. Why would this correspondence and exchange of money take place between entities that don’t seem to have that much in common?
That’s a question we all need to collectively examine. Besides the authorities, even regular people –like us, and our relatives abroad, and the Indian diaspora at large should check facts before they associate with a group and start making large donations. We must know the benefactors and the cause for which the money is being used. –as so far it looks like it’s mostly being used to change the sentiment about India, and bleed it, as the report says, by a thousand cuts.
(Source: Hudson Report, 2021)