Mr. Helms. Mr. President,
This week Rajiv Gandhi, the Prime Minister of India is visiting the United States. He comes here following what has been described as an unusually warm and friendly meeting in Moscow with our adversaries. We can only hope that he comes tour shores in a sincere search for friendship and understanding. America’s capacity for generosity and patience are well known throughout the world. Yet, there are limits.
Mr. President, I am deeply concerned about the situation on the subcontinent today. The Soviets are undertaking a massive genocidal campaign against the Afghan people which has in recent weeks intensified. The Soviets are poised in a most threatening manner against our traditional friend and ally, Pakistan. Indeed, the Soviets have violated Pakistani airspace and have even dropped bombs well inside Pakistani boundaries in recent weeks. It is well known that India and Pakistan have gone to war in the past and that this could happen again. The close military relationship between the Soviet Union and India is no secret and is indeed deeply disturbing.
Mr. President, the Pakistani Government says that Pakistan’s nuclear program is not weapons oriented.
Ever since India exploded its nuclear bomb in 1974, Pakistan has been under pressure, inside the U.N. General Assembly for the establishment of a nuclear weapons freeze zone in South Asia. India has been equally adamant in its opposition to the resolution which gets an overwhelming endorsement of U.N. membership.
In 1978 Pakistan formally proposed to India that first, India and Pakistan should accept international inspection of all their facilities or if this was not acceptable, they should reciprocally inspect each other’s nuclear facilities; second, Pakistan and India should sign the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and third, in the meanwhile Pakistan and India should jointly, with other countries of South Asia, renounce the manufacture or acquisition of nuclear weapons,
Pakistan also invited India to support Pakistan’s efforts in the United Nations for the establishment of a nuclear weapons free zone in South Asia.
To date there has been no response from India.
Pakistan has also drawn a blank on its proposal for determining a mutual acceptable ratio of forces and level of armaments.
Almost 4 years ago, in September 1981, Pakistan invited India to sign a no war pact.
India made a counterproposal for a treaty of peace, friendship and cooperation. Discussions on the two proposals have taken place, albelt haltingly in an on-again manner. The last meeting was held in May 1984. The subsequent meeting which was to take place in September 1984 was postponed at India’s behest. It is not rescheduled for July 30.
India’s apprehensions of Pakistan’s “evil designs” would have been set at rest if India had accepted any of the above proposals.
Mr. President, while Mr. Gandhi inherited the current situation in India he bears the responsibility for finding constructive solutions to the conditions facing religious and racial minorities in India today. I wish him every success in the search for just solutions to the very pressing internal questions on religious and human rights in India.
It is no secret that from the very inception of modern India after World War II the country has been in constant turmoil as communal rioting has occurred between the Hindu majority and the Sikh, Moslem, and Christian minorities.
Last year’s tragic massacre of Sikhs at their holiest shrine at Amritsar stunned the world no less than the tragic death of Mrs. Gandhi. Profound religious conflict on the subcontinent resulted in the formation of the state of Pakistan and the state of Bangladesh, both Moslem countries. If a just solution to the situation in the Punjab, the homeland of Sikhs is not found a similar process will inevitably occur.
Mr. President, I am disturbed that the Government of India in recent days has tried to prevent an American citizen and a leader in the Sikh struggle for religious freedom and human rights speak at the National Press Club yesterday. According to press reports, Mr. Gandhi threatened to cancel his own appearance before the National Press Club this Friday if Mr. Ganga Singh, Dhillon were allowed to speak. I commend the National Press Club for upholding the principal of the freedom of the press and not bending to such untoward pressure. The American people have a right to know about the situation on the subcontinent and the grave conditions affecting the religious and human rights of minorities there.
The American press has a right to investigate these matters and to report on them to the American people. I would add, however, that the Government of India has sealed off the Punjab from foreign press for the past year and now gives the impression that it would like to seal off the National Press Club as well.
Mr. President, so that the distinguished Members of this body might better understand the situation that the Sikhs face in India, I ask that the text of the press release given by Mr. Ganga Singh Dhillon today to members of the press Club be printed in the Record at the conclusion of my remarks. The material follows: The Indian dictatorship has launched a Holocaust against the Sikh Nation. The survival of the Sikhs as a Nation, of our religion, of our culture, of our way of life is the central issue for us today. Our most sacred temples have been desecrated and we are systematically persecuted on a daily basis in our homeland, the Punjab. Thousands of our Sikh brethren men, women and children have been slaughtered under India’s genocidal campaign against us.
There are those in the Western world who think of India as a democracy. This is an illusion the Indian dictatorship goes to great lengths to perpetuate. The truth of the matter is that there is no country in the world, outside of the Communist Bloc, in which fundamental human rights are so flagrantly denied. Persecution of religious minorities Sikh, Moslem, Christian, and Jew is a daily reality.
While the world condemns the denial of political and other rights to some 15 million blacks suffering under the apartheid system in South Africa, there is not a word about the racist caste system in India under which some 120 million “untouchables” are condemned to a living hell on earth. It is India which has_ systematically institutionalized racism on the largest scale in human history. We Sikhs are enjoined by our religion to oppose the caste system for we believe in the fundamental brotherhood of man.
There is a violent storm gathering on the subcontinent. The Sikh Nation has felt the initial winds of death and destruction in our homeland, the Punjab. The brave Afghan people, as all the world knows, are engulfed by the storm. The Iranian people are engulfed by the storm. A longtime friend and ally of the United States, Pakistan, is feeling the storm and the threats from India increase daily as do the threats from the Soviet Union.
The gathering storm which Winston Churchill so eloquently described was a storm propelled by the designs of the Nazi German Empire and the Japanese Empire. Today, the gathering storm in the subcontinent is propelled by the strategic designs of the Soviet Empire and its surrogate India. Sikh Americans have no illusions about the realities on the subcontinent just as Polish Americans have no_ illusions about the realities in Eastern Europe. Just as Jewish Americans five decades ago strove to alert their fellow citizens to the gathering storm in Europe and the horrors of Nazi persecution and imperial designs, so we Sikh Americans today feel compelled to alert our fellow citizens to Soviet Indian imperial designs and persecution in the subcontinent.
Sikh Americans condemn the insults by the Indian dictatorship against our blessed land the United States of America and against our courageous President Reagan. Just last week, the New York Times reported ‘from New Delhi that young Gandhi stated, and I quote, “If President Reagan sees it as red and white, we see it in a nice rosy color.” Quick to defend the country with which he has a military alliance, the Soviet Union, young Gandhi stated that, and I quote, “there is a justification” for the presence of over 100,000 Soviet troops in Afghanistan since they were, and I quote again, “invited by the Karmal regime.”
India has never supported the United States when it comes to the question of Communist aggression. India did not support our country during the Korean War. India did not support our country during the Vietnam War. During the month of April, at the so-called ‘‘Nonaligned Conference” chaired by young Gandhi the place of honor was given to the well-known international terrorist Yassir Arafat who sat next to the dictator of India.
Sikh Americans know that the United States has never been isolated from the affairs of the subcontinent. We remember that the clipper ships from New England carried more of the Indian Ocean commerce from 1783 to 1812 than did the British Empire. We remember that American soldiers and patriots who served in the War of Independence here came to the Punjab and helped the Sikhs create an independent sovereign state in 1799.
Our sovereign state extended from Kabul in today’s Afghanistan through the Punjab and Kashmir to Tibet. Our capital was in today’s Lahore, Pakistan and our state included the city of New Delhi in today’s India. It is also a source of pride to Sikh Americans that the government of the United States had a diplomatic representation at the court of Maharaja Ranjit Singh who was the head of our independent state. Our independence ended five decades later in 1849 owing to the conquest by the British Empire. The British subsequently betrayed a treaty they had with the Sikh state which promised the return of sovereign independence.
India today is in a state of internal collapse. It is a fact that Sikh arms established the independence of India. It is a fact that the Sikhs created the “green revolution” in India. It is a fact that the systematic and institutionalized oppression of religious and racial minorities in India is creating the conditions for the impending collapse. As the famous Jewish philosopher Martin Buber once said of Nazi Germany, “Those who depend upon empty power will be dragged down in its collapse.” The same is true for the dictatorship in India today and its friends ruling the Captive Nations behind the Iron Curtain.
Sikh Americans are committed to the highest values upon which the United States and its Constitution stand. We defend the principle of democracy and representative government. We defend the principles of human rights and religious freedom. We defend the principle of the right of national self-determination of oppressed peoples. We are proud of our Sikh heritage and we are proud of our American heritage. We Sikh Americans hope that in the days, and months, and years to come, our fellow citizens may get to know us better. We hope that we may be able to deepen the understanding of our fellow citizens for our religion and cultural heritage but also deepen the understanding of our fellow citizens about the course of human events in the subcontinent. Our fellow citizens should know that the Sikh Nation in the Punjab has resolved to hang together rather than hang separately.
Article extracted from this publication >> June 21, 1985