“Khalistan movement may be achieving Pakistan’s goal – bleeding India – but is nowhere close to the Khalistanis’ goal – an independent state.”
“It’s clear who’s really driving the Khalistan bus: Pakistan. In truth, the Khalistan movement has been going nowhere in the Sikhs’ home state.” – Terry Milewski
Ahead of a looming referendum in November on a proposed independent Khalistan among sympathisers worldwide, a recent report nails the Pakistani State backing to the extremist movement. The report Khalistan: A Project of Pakistan, authored by veteran journalist Terry Milewski, a close Khalistan watcher for many years and former Middle East Bureau Chief of CBC, has been published by MLI (Macdonald-Laurier Institute). The proposed referendum and a key group fronting it, Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), have been banned by India – and the Justin Trudeau-led Canadian government has already declared that the results will not be recognised.
The report underlines the ‘Khalistani reality as a geopolitical project nurtured by Pakistan, threatening the national security of Canadians and Indians’, and also how it has impacted domestic politics as well as ties between Ottawa and Delhi.
The report, however, excludes any analysis on the Kartarpur Corridor Project, but in his exclusive interview to The Quint, Terry Milewski said that Pakistan is looking for opportunities to whip up anti-India sentiments among pilgrims. “It certainly is an opportunity for Pakistan to foment more trouble. And they have taken that opportunity,” he said. “If it is possible to exploit the Corridor, to make more trouble for India, then Pakistan will take that option,” he added.
Why We Need To Worry About Pakistan-Khalistan Link And Roots
Below are excerpts from the interview with Terry Milewski:
Smita Sharma: Did you speak to Khalistani supporters and Pakistani officials for the report?
Terry Milewski: The reason that people get surprised to hear that Pakistan is ‘driving the Khalistani bus’ is because the public record has been lost; it is regarded as an issue that is in the past. There was this Air India bombing in 1985. There were terror killings and insurgency in India. But that is all behind us now; we do not have to worry about it anymore. Well it turns out that we DO have to worry about it. To find the public records – the history and criminal activity that can be traced to the problem. The history goes back to the ‘71 war between India and Pakistan; there used to be an East Pakistan which got torn off in the war and became Bangladesh, and Pakistan’s motivation for supporting the Khalistan movement from the get-go was ‘revenge’.
‘Khalistanis Need Pakistan As A Safe Haven’
Milewski went on to say, “Where did the mastermind of the 1985 Air India bombing run to when he fled? Of course he ran to Pakistan. And who was with him when he was finally caught and killed in Punjab in October of 1992? He was then a wanted mass murderer. 331 people died in those bombings, and who was with him – two Muslim guys from the Pakistani ISI – both carrying passports.”
The veteran journalist further added, “If you put together the public record on just about every line of the report, you see the name Pakistan, because there is a very good reason for why the Khalistanis rely on and depend on their support. What would they do otherwise? Could they operate freely and operate training camps, stockpile ammunition if they were operating in Punjab or anywhere else in India? I think that would be very difficult. So they need Pakistan as a safe haven.”
The map (of Khalistan) is very expansive on the Indian side. But the map stops at the Pakistani border. They don’t even attempt to make a claim on one inch of Pakistani territory. Why would that be if they are so interested in an independent Sikh sate? How could they exclude their founding father? How could they exclude Lahore?Terry Milewski to Smita Sharma for The Quint
‘Without Pakistan’s Backing, Separatists Would Be Dead’
Sharma: You write in your report that separatists in turn clearly know where their patrons set their limits. So they do not include Pakistani territory fearing a backlash?
Milewski: Indeed. They don’t want to lose Pakistani support. Because they know that without it they are dead.
An example that was striking is that of Gopal Singh Chawla, a prominent separatist figure in Pakistan, who is not shy about his alliance with jihadists. He seems quite proud of his alliance, for example, with Hafiz Saeed, the mastermind of the Mumbai attacks.
Sharma: You are absolutely sure that it is not about a photo-op moment but a deep nexus between Chawla and Saeed and LeT?
Milewski: Indeed. He (Gopal Chawla) was interviewed about it and Chawla himself described Hafiz Saeed as “my ideal person”. So it was not as if they had a chance meeting and somebody got a picture and they are trying to make too much of it. It was Chawla who made too much of it.
‘Khalistanis Don’t Realise That Their Referendum Will Expose Their Fundamental Lie’
Sharma: Is there a vertical split between political parties in Canada on this issue?
Milewski: I don’t think they (Canadian politicians) think about it very much. It will be easy to say that the Canadian political parties have been ‘captured’ by the Khalistan dream and that they are ‘anti-India’. But they are not; they are just looking for votes. They are like politicians everywhere.
In every society, there are people who are blind, uneducated, not interested in facts. Look at what is happening in the United States.
I find them (Khalistanis) to be unpersuasive, not really plugged into the real world. They don’t even realise how embarrassing this new referendum is going to be. They support the referendum. They think it is a great idea. But they don’t realise that this is going to expose the fundamental lie that is at the root of the Khalistani movement – namely, that they say they speak ‘for Sikhs’ at large. They are the ‘voice of the Sikh Community’ throughout. This is not true. You cannot get elected as a separatist where the Sikhs actually live – 90 percent of them – in Punjab.
Sharma: You think Kartarpur Corridor runs the risk of Pakistan fuelling anti India hate?
Milewski: Some people obviously intend to use it as such. It certainly is an opportunity for Pakistan to foment more trouble, and they have taken that opportunity. Yes, if it is possible to exploit the corridor, to make more trouble for India, then Pakistan will take that option.
(Smita Sharma is an independent journalist and tweets at @Smita_Sharma. This is an interview by a guest writer. The views expressed above are that of the independent interviewer and the interviewee. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same.)