Canada’s diplomatic fallout with India is flaring up again after a prominent leader of the Sikh separatist movement told Sikhs not to travel on Air India flights due to potentially life-threatening consequences.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an outspoken Khalistani leader based in Canada released a video wherein he repeated multiple threats to those who will be traveling on Air India flights on November 19.
“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,” said Pannun. “It is my warning to the government of India.”
Designated as a terrorist by the Indian government, Pannun was rumoured to have been killed in a car accident in the US prior to the video’s release.
Pannun also claimed that the New Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport would be shut down on November 19 and demanded its name be changed.
November 19 is also the date of the final match in the international men’s cricket World Cup, which is being hosted in 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,” said Mr Pannun.
The names mentioned by Pannun were the two separatist leaders who assassinated India’s former prime minister Indira Gandhi in October 1984.
Indian officials have said that they plan to discuss the threat with Canadian authorities.
“We shall take up the threat against Air India flights originating from and terminating in Canada, with the concerned Canadian authorities,” said Sanjay Kumar Verma, India’s high commissioner to Canada.
“We have studied the contents of the video, which is in clear violation of the Chicago Convention, which lays out a framework for international civil aviation operations. Canada and India, among many other nations, are parties to the convention.”
Verma said that India and Canada must collaborate to prevent such threats under the bilateral civil aviation agreement.
Pannun’s threats to target Air India flights are reminiscent of the June 1985 terrorist attack that was carried out by Khalistani separatists, killing 329 passengers aboard Air India flight 182.
In an interview with the Globe and Mail, Verma recently said that the Canadian police probe into the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was damaged by a high-level Canadian official’s public statement .
“I would go a step further and say now the investigation has already been tainted,” said Verma, without naming the official. “A direction has come from someone at a high level to say India or Indian agents are behind it.”
A diplomatic fallout ensued following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement in the House of Commons that there were “credible allegations” that the Indian government was behind the assassination of Nijjar.
The Indian government has denied these allegations.
Trudeau’s statements led to Canada withdrawing 41 diplomats from India, travel advisories from both countries, India halting visas to Canadian travelers and a subsequent cyberattack on the Canadian Armed Forces’ website by pro-Khalistani hackers.