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The Need for a Bilateral Treaty Framework: A Comprehensive Perspective to deal with Separatism movements exploiting Strategic Partnership model between India and USA

The Need for a Bilateral Treaty Framework: A Comprehensive Perspective to deal with separatism movements exploiting Strategic Partnership model between India and USA


In the complex landscape of international relations, the issue of separatism has increasingly become a flashpoint, straining diplomatic ties and challenging national security. Recent incidents involving Hardeep Singh Nijjar and Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, known advocates of the, Khalistan movement, have underscored this concern.

These individuals, harbored in foreign countries, have been advocating for a separate Sikh state in India, leading to strained diplomatic relations between India, the United States, and Canada. Amidst this backdrop, it is crucial to distinguish between peaceful right to protest and raise voice, which is a fundamental right, and violent separatism, which poses a significant threat to the sovereignty and integrity of nations.

This distinction becomes even more critical considering India’s strategic partnership with the USA, as one of the Quad countries. The question arises – why would these countries provide asylum to political offenders of India, a strategic partner? And what can be various diplomatic and administrative channels India can explore to resolve this issue. This article delves into these complexities and discusses the need for a new treaty framework to address these challenges.

Understanding Separatism

Separatism, as a concept, refers to the advocacy for a separate state or nation, often based on ethnic, religious, or regional identities. While some separatist movements have peaceful origins, others resort to violence and terrorism to achieve their objectives. This phenomenon is not unique to any one region or country, but is a global occurrence with examples found across the world, including in the USA, Canada, India, and other democratic countries.

In the USA, separatist movements have been part of the country’s history. The American Revolution itself was a form of separatism, with the American colonies seeking independence from British rule. And despite that in modern times, USA has actively sought to curb various separatist movements in different parts of the country, such as Cascadia, California, and the Confederate States of America. 

Canada has also experienced its share of separatist movements, most notably in Quebec and Alberta. The Quebec sovereignty movement, for instance, has been a significant political force in the province for several decades, advocating for increased autonomy or even full independence from Canada. Similarly, there have been calls for greater autonomy or independence in Alberta, driven by economic grievances and a sense of alienation from the federal government.

In India, separatist movements have been a part of the country’s post-independence history. These movements, such as the Khalistan movement in Punjab, the Naxal-Maoist insurgency, and various separatist movements in the Northeast, often arise from a sense of cultural, ethnic, or economic marginalization. The Indian government has typically responded to these movements through a combination of political negotiation, economic development initiatives, and, in some cases, military action.

In dealing with separatist movements, democratic countries often face a delicate balancing act. On one hand, they must uphold the principles of democracy, which include respecting the rights of minority groups and allowing for the expression of dissent. On the other hand, they must also maintain national unity and ensure the security and well-being of all citizens.

In fact these movements arise from a sense of economic or political marginalization within the larger national framework. But every country, including USA and Canada has adopted various means to curb violent methods of separatism to protect their national sovereignty. 

The Khalistan Movement: A Case Study of Violent Separatism

A recent example of violent separatism is the Khalistan movement, which advocates for a separate Sikh state in India. This movement has been linked to several violent incidents, including the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver, Canada. Nijjar, a known Khalistani separatist, was shot multiple times in a coordinated attack.

The Attempted Assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun

Another incident that has put India in diplomatic turmoil is the attempted assassination of Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an advocate for the Khalistan movement. Pannun, who resides in the United States, was the target of a foiled murder plot. These incidents have sparked controversy and strained diplomatic relations between India, the United States, and Canada.

I believe that USA, Canada and other democratic countries of Five Eyes network must respect India’s right to take steps to protect its own sovereignty and take steps against those who aim to foment insurrection on Indian Soil. Recent incidents where so called agents of Indian Government are accused of foiled murder plot of Khalistani separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, on US soil. It is surprising that while on one hand their own government don’t tolerate violent means of advocating for a separate state and take stern actions against such individuals, ironically while calling India a strategic partner of USA, the same country gives asylum to such individuals who advocate for violent methods of separatism! Why such individuals are not arrested for inciting violence in India ? In fact one could have easily accused USA of double standards when it has failed to take actions against such individuals on their soil. But giving benefit of doubt, I aim to explore democratic methods to deal with such individuals on foreign soil. 

The Indian Perspective on Violent Separatism

India, a country that achieved its independence from the British Empire through peaceful means, respects the right to voice dissent. However, it firmly believes that violent means to achieve political objectives, including advocating for a separate state, must be declared as acts of terror.

In India, the legal framework to deal with separatism is robust and well-defined. The Indian Penal Code (IPC) and the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA) are two key pieces of legislation that address separatism.

The IPC, under Section 124A, deals with sedition, which includes any action that brings or attempts to bring hatred or contempt, or excites or attempts to excite disaffection towards the Government of India. This includes any words, spoken or written, or any signs or visible representation that can cause such disaffection

The UAPA, on the other hand, provides for the effective prevention of certain unlawful activities of individuals and associations⁵. It allows for the designation of an association or group of people as “unlawful” if they engage in any activities that include actions, words, or statements that support any claim to bring about“the cession of a part of the territory of India” or its “secession”.

Legal Provisions on Separatism in the USA and Canada

In the United States, the law is clear about acts that threaten the unity and sovereignty of the nation. The American Model Penal Code aims to prevent any conduct that may cause harm to people or society. This includes acts of terrorism and advocacy for separatism that involve violence or the threat of violence.

Similarly, in Canada, the Criminal Code includes rules that set out how people can be guilty of crimes if they help or encourage others to commit crimes. This includes advocating for a separate state through violent means.

Impact on Sovereignty : A Deeper look

Sovereignty, in its simplest form, refers to the full right and power of a governing body to govern itself without any interference from outside sources or bodies. In political theory, sovereignty is a substantive term designating supreme legitimate authority over some polity. When we talk about a nation’s sovereignty, we refer to its absolute authority to govern its own affairs, make its own laws, and administer justice within its own territory.

Now, when a person, harbored in a foreign country, advocates for a separate state, it is not merely a challenge to the unity of the nation in question, but an affront to its sovereignty and an indirect way of supporting non state actors to wage war against a country. This is because such advocacy, particularly when it involves violent means, undermines the authority of the nation and disrupts the peace and order within its territory.

This act, in itself, can be construed as an attack on the sovereignty of the nation being targeted and an act of war. It’s akin to an external force trying to alter the political structure of the nation, often leading to internal strife and conflict. This not only disrupts the peace and stability of the nation but also poses a threat to its territorial integrity and every nation must have right to take appropriate steps within democratic framework to curb the acts of violence. 

But, when such advocacy is carried out from a foreign land, it adds another layer of complexity to the issue. It raises questions about the role and responsibility of the country harboring such individuals. Should that country be held accountable for not curbing such activities within its territory? Does it, by providing a safe haven to such individuals, become complicit in the attack on another nation’s sovereignty? Can it be construed as an act of war against a country being targeted?.

The Right to Protect Sovereignty 

When anyone attacks India’s sovereignty, India must have a right to protect the sovereignty and the same may be exercised in a legal manner. For this, a treaty framework between the USA and India, and Canada and India is essential.

India as a Strategic Partner

India is a strategic partner of the USA and one of the Quad countries. In such circumstances, it is perplexing why these countries would give asylum to political offenders of India. India must make it a base that for strategic partnership with India, the reciprocating country must not harbor India’s political offenders.

Historical Reluctance to Extradite Political Offenders

However, historically, political offenders have been exempt from extradition due to the “political offense exception” principle in extradition law. This principle recognizes that certain acts committed in pursuit of political objectives may be considered political offenses rather than regular criminal acts. This exception serves to protect individuals engaged in legitimate political activities from being extradited.

Challenges in Extraditing Political Offenders

The main challenges in extraditing political offenders include the risk of torture, inhuman or degrading treatment, or denial of a fair trial in the requesting state. The non-refoulement principle, derived from international law, prohibits the return of individuals to countries where they may face such treatment. This principle applies both to extradition cases and the granting of asylum to political offenders, ensuring their protection and safeguarding their human rights.

Attempts to press for extradition for Political Offenders

There have been attempts to deliberate upon various landamark judgments on the principle invoking extradition as an interface with asylum being another institution under international law. 

Protecting Sovereignty: The Need for a Bilateral Treaty Framework with USA (and Canada) 

In the context of an increasingly interconnected world, it is essential that every country recognizes and treats acts of separatism, particularly those involving violence, as crimes, irrespective of where they occur. For instance, if separatist activities through violent means are deemed unlawful in the USA and Canada, these countries should acknowledge the same to be unlawful when advocated in their treaty counterparts. This principle of mutual recognition of criminality forms the bedrock of international cooperation in maintaining law and order.

The implementation of this principle would mean that an individual involved in such activities could be indicted and arrested in a foreign country, and then handed over to the requesting country through extradition. This process not only ensures the accountability of the individual but also strengthens international relations and mutual trust among countries. 

Given the limitations of general framework of extradition of political offenders, there is a pressing need for a new treaty framework. This framework should allow for the declaration of separatists as terrorists and enable their extradition, ensuring that these individuals are held accountable for their actions. 

Such a comprehensive treaty framework would require the collective effort of the international community. It would need to balance the interests of sovereign states with the protection of human rights. It would also need to consider the delicate balance between the interests of sovereign states and the protection of human rights. 

Challenges in Implementing a New Treaty Framework

Implementing a new treaty framework is not without challenges. These include differing legal systems, human rights concerns, and the potential for misuse of the treaty for political purposes. However, these challenges are not insurmountable and can be addressed through careful negotiation and drafting of the treaty.

Conclusion on Separatism: A Call for a New Treaty Framework

While the road to a new treaty framework is fraught with challenges, it is a necessary step in the fight against terrorism and separatism. By working together, nations can ensure that those who threaten their sovereignty are held accountable for their actions. It is only through collective action and mutual cooperation that we can hope to maintain global peace and security. In conclusion, the development of a new treaty framework that addresses these challenges is not just desirable, but necessary for the maintenance of international peace and security. It is a step towards a more just and equitable world order, where every act of violence is recognized as a crime, and every individual is held accountable for their actions.



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