Nine months after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s controversial visit to India, there has been a noted absence of engagement at the ministerial level in terms of bilateral visits. Sources have described this as a ‘standstill’ between India and Canada. And this is not surprising. Not in the least. Is Khalistan to be blamed?
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Since coming to power in 2015, Trudeau has received widespread support from some extreme Khalistani political groups. The Canadian Prime Minister has repeatedly failed to take into account that ‘Khalistan’ is very much a sensitive issue for India. And its well known that Sikh terror groups have been receiving support from Canada.
According to the Hindustan Times, the derailment of the India – Canada relationship is very much evident and not just the absence of bilateral visits in the past nine months but the cancellation of expected visits.
“Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu was expected in Canada in September, but the trip never came through. That was the case with the visit of the minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari.” Former Minister of State for External Affairs, MJ Akbar was also due for a visit in November but was cancelled after he resigned from the government.
The Khalistan Pinch
Trudeau is known for his ‘Punjabi or rather Khalistan inclination’. And this has not been going down well with India; most notedly last April when he attended a ‘Khalsa Day’ parade organized by one of the more radical gurdwaras in Toronto. The Ministry of External Affairs took this up strongly with the Canadian government.
Meanwhile, a prominent pro-separatist Sikh organization plans to hold polls in several Canadian cities as part of a worldwide referendum for an independent Sikh nation – Khalistan. “Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) says it is targeting Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver to join some 100 cities worldwide where Sikhs will be polled in a non-binding referendum as part of a campaign dubbed ‘Referendum 2020’.
The Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland said the Liberal government would not recognize any such referendum. The Foreign Affairs Office in a statement said Canada’s position on a united India has not changed and our government would not recognize such a referendum.
Moreover, Canada has recognized that ‘Khalistan’ – Sikh Separatism was a major flashpoint of Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to India. In April 2018, an Indian diplomat told the United Nations Human Rights Council that Canada needed to prevent people from misusing their right to freedom of expression to ‘incite violence and glorify terrorists as martyrs’.
Senior government officials and politicians are wary of India and Canada relations. And with the Lokh Sabha elections around the corner, the relations will remain cold. Only a new government can take thaw the coldness.
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