No support for Khalistan in US
Recent allegations of an Indian official plotting to assassinate separatist Sikh leader Pannun are unlikely to impact long-term US-India relations, says Jassee Singh
A prominent Indian American Sikh leader has said that there is no support for the Khalistan movement in the US, neither in the government nor in the community.
Jassee Singh from the Sikhs of America organisation also urged the Modi government to provide a comprehensive developmental package for Punjab to address several key challenges being faced by the state, including the problem of illicit drugs among the youths.
“Modi Government’s relationship with the Sikhs and the things that he has done for this community is unprecedented as compared to the previous governments. There is no doubt about that," Singh told PTI in an interview.
"At the same time, there are several Sikh issues that need to be addressed. This includes the atrocities against the Sikhs in the 1984 riots. No Sikhs would forget this,” Singh said.
The Modi government has tried its best to address the concerns of the Sikhs, but there are a number of issues that he still needs to address, he said adding that the prime minister needs to establish a direct relationship with the Sikh community in India and the world and not through middlemen like the Akalis and the Badals.
Responding to a question he said, "No. The majority of Sikhs don't support the Khalistan movement." He said there is a small minority in India and the US that supports this movement.
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Singh and his delegation have met the Prime Minister during his every visit to the US since 2014.
Observing that India’s growth story makes every overseas Indian proud, Singh said it is time that the Center gives some “better package” for the State of Punjab, its youth and its people.
“More should be done for the youth of Punjab,” he said. "There is a need to stop the migration of youth outside India and provide them with employment and business opportunities," he said.
Responding to a question on the recent American allegations that an Indian official was involved in a plot to assassinate a separatist Sikh leader, a US national, in the United States, Singh said in the long term this is unlikely to have an impact on the bilateral ties.
US federal prosecutors last month charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta with working with an Indian government employee in the foiled plot to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Sikh extremist who is an American and Canadian citizen. An unnamed Indian official also appeared in an indictment along with the Indian national, who the Department of Justice alleges hired someone in the US to assassinate Pannun.
“Everybody knows what has been going on in the past few weeks, with the Department of Justice filing a charge sheet against Nikhil Gupta and accusing the government of India. But this should not be seen as a support for a separatist Khalistani movement in the US," Singh said.
"This was an action taken by the US government to protect their own citizens. The separatist happens to be a US citizen, so they came in defence of a US citizen for extrajudicial killings,” he said.
When asked about whether it would impact bilateral ties, Singh said: "I think, yes, for a very short term it has an impact on the relationship. But in the larger context, I think a better understanding will come out of it between both governments because India has suggested that this is not their policy to do things like this." He said there was an investigation going on.
"I would request the Indian government to conduct an independent investigation as soon as possible, and people who did it should be brought to justice,” he said.
“But India-US ties are a strong relationship. The US needs India and India needs the US as well because of geo-strategic reasons, countering China and other issues. So, this is a short-term setback in the relationship,” Singh said.