International law and norms are basic tenets of democracy and global political order. As per UN charters, every state of the world is bound to follow international norms and rules established by the global bodies. From terrorism to extremism, no state country undertakes any unilateral action on the soil of other sovereign countries to accomplish particular objectives. Such actions, whether viewed under domestic law or international standards, constitute punishable crimes. When terrorism is targeted at communities based on their beliefs, religion, or culture with the intent to exterminate, terrorize, suppress, or displace them, it falls within the realm of Crimes Against Humanity. This has prompted the development of international laws, conventions, and judicial mechanisms to hold perpetrators accountable, irrespective of whether they are states or individuals.
India, often touted as the world’s largest democracy, has a historical record of conflicts with various ethnic, religious, and cultural groups, including the Naxal-Maoist people, Sikh community, and residents of seven states—Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, and Nagaland. The actions of successive Indian governments, particularly under the leadership of Prime Minister Modi, have been criticized for alleged suppression, persecution, and acts that are considered contrary to human rights. The narrative extends beyond domestic concerns, as allegations of state-sponsored terrorism gain international attention. Incidents such as the assassination of Canadian Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia, have sent shockwaves globally. Additionally, the U.S.
Department of Justice recently disclosed an alleged plot by an Indian official to assassinate a Sikh activist and American citizen in New York City.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had previously warned the Canadian government about Indian intelligence agency RAW’s networks in Canada, planning attacks on Sikhs and attempting to influence elections. Despite irrefutable evidence presented by CSIS in 2017, the Canadian government refrained from taking substantial action, allowing Indian activities to persist.
The international response to these allegations, including the muted reaction from the U.S., prompts scrutiny. The U.S., in its strategic alignment with India to counterbalance China’s rise, has refrained from taking decisive actions. Notably, the U.S. did not impose sanctions on India for purchasing S-400 missiles from Russia, which led to sanctions against other countries under the ‘Countering American Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) of 2017.’ This selective approach raises questions about the consistency of international norms and accountability. Furthermore, the U.S. has entered into significant agreements with India, such as LEMOA, COMCASA, and BECA, highlighting a complex relationship that involves geopolitical considerations.
The bias exhibited in favor of India, despite its alleged involvement in extrajudicial activities, underscores the challenges in maintaining a balanced approach to international relations.
Canada, a victim of the alleged state-sponsored terrorism on its soil, faced challenges in responding appropriately. The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, underscored the potential consequences of India’s actions on the international stage. Despite the gravity of the situation, Canada’s reaction was not as assertive as one might expect from a sovereign state facing such a violation.
The reluctance to confront India could be attributed to various factors, including diplomatic pressures, economic ties, and geopolitical considerations. The lack of a strong response damaged Canada’s reputation, leaving its citizens and expatriates questioning the government’s commitment to protecting their interests and seeking justice.
As highlighted by former U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, the allegations of India financing trouble in Afghanistan’s neighboring countries add another layer to the complex web of international relations. The historical context, including the British Empire’s adversarial past with the Sikh Empire, may have contributed to the lasting partition plan of 1947, leading to ongoing turbulence in the region. The mistreatment of Sikhs as a minority has fueled the separatist Khalistan Movement, culminating in overwhelming votes in favor of an independent state for Sikhs in a 2023 referendum.
Reports from international human rights organizations, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, document inhuman treatment meted out to the Sikh minority in India.
In conclusion, the alleged state-sponsored terrorism by India, particularly against the Sikh community, raises serious concerns on both domestic and international fronts. The lack of decisive actions by affected countries and international bodies threatens to undermine the credibility of the UN and relevant conventions.
The call for accountability is imperative, urging the international community to reassess its approach to nations accused of violating human rights and engaging in state-sponsored terrorism. It is essential to uphold the principles of justice, fairness, and the rule of law, regardless of a nation’s geopolitical significance. The international stage must not become a platform where powerful nations can act with impunity, disregarding the rights and lives of individuals and communities affected by their actions. Only through collective efforts and adherence to international norms can the world address and rectify the alleged violations, ensuring a more just and accountable global order.
The writer is Islamabad based regular contributor.