In a recent turn of events, India and Canada find themselves entangled in diplomatic tensions once again. The cause of concern this time centers around a stern warning issued by a prominent separatist leader that poses a potential threat to Air India flights. Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a Khalistani leader based in Canada, has urged Sikhs to avoid traveling on Air India flights scheduled for November 19, citing ominous consequences that may befall those who ignore this warning.
Pannun’s warning was delivered in a video message in which he reiterated multiple threats to the safety of passengers on Air India flights. He stated, “We are asking the Sikh people to not fly via Air India on 19 November. There will be a global blockade. Do not travel by Air India or your life will be in danger.” These threats have been circulating on social media, causing heightened concerns among potential travelers.
The separatist leader’s message did not mince words as he directly addressed the Indian government, stating, “It is my warning to the government of India.” Interestingly, Mr. Pannun had previously been rumored to have met his demise in a car accident in the United States.
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Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is designated as an independent terrorist by the Indian government. In his latest statement, he went on to claim that New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport would be shut down on November 19, advocating for a change in the airport’s name. Coincidentally, this date also marks the final match of the international men’s cricket World Cup hosted by India.
“It is the same day on which the final match of the World Terror [sic] Cup will be played. It will be shown to the world that a genocide of Sikhs happened in India and India did it. When we liberate Punjab, the name of these airports will be Shahid Beant Singh and Shahid Satwant Singh airport,” remarked Mr. Pannun, referencing two separatist leaders who had assassinated former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984.
It’s essential to note that the authenticity of the video has not been verified by independent sources. Consequently, the situation is surrounded by uncertainty and is subject to further investigation.
In response to the threat, Indian officials have expressed their intention to engage with Canadian authorities. Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, affirmed, “We shall take up the threat against Air India flights originating from and terminating in Canada with the concerned Canadian authorities.” He emphasized that the content of the video violates the Chicago Convention, a framework for international civil aviation operations, to which both Canada and India are parties. Bilateral civil aviation agreements are expected to guide discussions regarding such threats.
The current situation bears an unsettling resemblance to the tragic terrorist attack carried out by Khalistan leaders in June 1985, which resulted in the loss of 329 lives on board Air India flight 182.
This recent development follows Mr. Verma’s comments regarding the Canadian police investigation into the murder of a Sikh separatist leader earlier this year. He claimed that the investigation had been compromised by a high-level Canadian official’s public statement. Mr. Verma stated, “I would go a step further and say now the investigation has already been tainted,” suggesting that directives had come from a senior authority implying Indian involvement without naming the official responsible.
This diplomatic tension between India and Canada was initially fueled when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau insinuated Indian involvement in the murder of Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in a Vancouver suburb. This led to the withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats from India, following India’s request for Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in response to Canada’s allegations.
Despite these developments, India maintains that it has not been presented with concrete evidence of its involvement by Canada or its allies, even though a U.S. envoy had previously indicated that the Five Eyes alliance was aware of India’s interference.
With the G20 Summit on the horizon, where world leaders from the most powerful economies are set to convene in New Delhi, Canada has approached its closest allies within the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing nations to jointly address this issue at the upcoming summit. These recent developments suggest that diplomatic relations between India and Canada remain fragile, with the potential for further tensions on the horizon.