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Pannun 'Plot': Australian MP Seeks Assurance From Govt About Safety of Sikhs

David Shoebridge said if the BJP administration is "actively plotting to kill political opponents in the US and Canada, just imagine what's happening in India itself".
David Shoebridge. Photo: Splashtack/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 4.0

New Delhi: A member of the upper house of Australia’s parliament said on Tuesday, December 5, that in light of the US thwarting an alleged Indian plot to kill an American on US soil, the Australian government needs to give “a clear and direct assurance” that proactive measures are being taken to ensure the safety of Sikhs in the country.

David Shoebridge, the Greens senator from New South Wales, said that the Sikh community in Australia is “reeling because their leaders are being targeted for political assassination”. He referred to the US Department of Justice’s allegation that an Indian government official had directed the foiled plot to assassinate a Sikh community leader on US soil and Canada’s allegation that Indian agents were involved in the killing of another Khalistan activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in British Columbia.

He said these actions “show how far to the extreme the BJP government in India has lurched. If the BJP administration is actively plotting to kill political opponents in the US and Canada, just imagine what’s happening in India itself”.

Shoebridge has been a consistent critic of the Narendra Modi government. Earlier this year, when the Indian prime minister held bilateral talks with his Australian counterpart in Sydney, the senator attended a screening of the BBC documentary on Modi’s alleged role in the 2002 Gujarat riots. The documentary was banned in India.

“All Australian politicians should now show solidarity with our Sikh community, who are the most visible targets of this extreme political violence. I know there’s apprehension in the Sikh community about their safety here, and I can see why they are concerned. We have raised this directly with security agencies, including ASIO. ASIO has informed me that there is no current identifiable threat to the Sikh community here,” Shoebridge said.

Seeking a “clear and direct assurance” from the Australian government that proactive measures were being taken to ensure the safety of Sikhs, he added, “There must be a public statement from our government to the government of India that these actions represent a gross breach of international law that offends Australian values.”

The government needs to state that if a similar plot occurs in Australia, “it will be taken as a hostile act that would fundamentally undermine our bilateral relationship”.

Taking a dig at Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, Shoebrdige said, “It’s one thing to ride in a golden chariot and venerate a foreign political leader, but the hard politics is when you need to put principles and the collective good of Australians ahead of a media sugar hit or the promise of a lucrative trade deal. That’s when politicians earn their keep.”

The Australian government had backed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that Indian agents were linked to the killing of Nijjar, asking India to join the investigation. It has not commented on the indictment filed by the US Department of Justice. The US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence sharing network, which informed Trudea’s allegation.

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