Khalistan syndrome and souring India-Canada ties

In a major development, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on September 18, came guns blazing at India. He alleged that “agents of the Indian government” were behind the killing of the Khalistani separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. This was followed by the expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat in Canada and a reciprocal tit-for-tat move from India. Unsurprisingly, this heated turn of events has put forward a new set of tensions in the India-Canada ties, which has anyways not been in a very healthy shape lately.

Justin Trudeau’s “humiliating” India visit

Many experts have expressed surprise over the timing of Trudeau’s remarks. The Canadian PM just returned from India after the G20 Summit, a summit which was ‘humiliating’ for him to say the least, and a visit that he would like to forget soon. As per reports, there were some heated exchanges between PM Narendra Modi and PM Trudeau during the bilateral meeting. As per the Indian side, Mr Modi raised “strong concerns” regarding the rising Khalistani extremism in Canada, and also expressed displeasure over the authority’s “inaction”.

After the meeting, Trudeau was seen as a little upset with the Indian side. Neither did he look cheerful (compared to other leaders) during the photo session. Some say, he even pulled his hands away from Mr Modi. Even when his plane underwent some technical glitch, he “refused” to take an Indian plane, despite being offered one. Notably, his 2018 trip to India too wasn’t very positive, when Mr Modi met his counterpart only after five days. So, there should be no doubt that Trudeau was indeed facing some serious heat in his own country, after such a humiliating foreign trip. So, those who know politics must be anticipating some revengeful action from Trudeau for his political redemption. Maybe that’s exactly what we saw.

Liberals, NDP leadership reach tentative deal to support Trudeau government  to 2025 | CBC News

Canada PM Justin Trudeau with his coalition partner Khalistan-sympathiser Jagmeet Singh (Photo: CBC News)

The ‘Khalistan’ phenomenon in Canada

It is not a new fact that a large Indian diaspora, especially the Sikh diaspora lives in Canada. This trend began right through the 1970s and 80s. It further increased when the Indian government began a crackdown against the Khalistanis. The reason, a lot of Sikhs did choose Canada, was that it is a very accepting, liberal and democratic country. Also, some radical and vested interests were able to take asylum and refuge to stay safe from the Indian intelligence agencies. Now, slowly this trend led to a very significant proportion of Indian Sikhs landing on Canadian soil, with voting rights. Today, Sikhs — some 2% of the Canadian population — are in wealthy and influential positions, and comprise a crucial voter base in the country’s politics.

Taking a closer look at Canadian politics, we see that Trudeau is actually heading only a minority government (157 seats out of the 338-member house). As a compulsion, he is in a coalition with Jagmeet Singh ‘Jimmy’ Dhaliwal of the New Democratic Party, which has 24 seats. It means that Singh’s support is crucial for Trudeau to stay in power. And guess what, this Jagmeet Singh is an astute Khalistani supporter. He has repeatedly attacked the Indian government during farmer protests, crackdown on that half-witted Amritpal Singh, and has always been vocal for the so-called Khalistani cause. Also, Trudeau himself has been seen at multiple events — with and without ally Singh — where pro-Khalistani slogans and speeches were being made.

In what is just one of the many episodes of their influence, the Trudeau government in 2018 published a list of threats in Canada. It had mentioned “rising Sikh extremism”. However, just within a month or so, the same list had the element committed. Now, it’s not rocket science, that such a thing can only happen with some solid influence at the top. If all this was not enough, in June this year, a tableau parade — having a cutout of former PM Indira Gandhi in a white saree, splattered with blood and guns being pointed by his two assassins — was carried out. This was just the height of audacity. In no “educated and civilised” country, can you allow someone to celebrate the assassination of an elected leader that too by some bloody terrorists, in the name of “freedom of expression”.

These examples pretty much sums up how emboldened the Khalistani extremists have become under the Trudeau government in Canada. Although, I don’t want to go much into Trudeau’s domestic politics and career, here is an interesting trivia. His father and former PM Pierre Trudeau was in power for three terms, and it was under his tenure, that the Khalistan uprising started in Canada. The then PM Indira Gandhi even warned Trudeau senior of the consequences urging him to take action against the extremists. But…well like son like father, or maybe the other way round. Nothing was done, and the result, the whole world witnessed a few years later.

Sturla Gunnarsson's documentary 'Air India 182' recreates 1985 bombing of  the Canada-India flight

The debris of Air India flight being collected by the Irish authorities (Photo: Scroll)

The Air India ‘Kanishka’ Bombing (1985)

An Air India flight, Boeing 747 named ‘Emperor Kanishka’, took off from Toronto, stopped at Montreal and was slated to land in Mumbai…but it didn’t. In what is undoubtedly the “worst terror attack” in Canadian history, the flight exploded in the air off the coast of Ireland, killing all 329 passengers and crew on board. The extent of the terrorist act could be understood by the fact that no warning or emergency call was issued, as the plane exploded only 45 minutes after take off, and only 131 out of the total deceased bodies could be recovered.

During the investigation, it was found that a man named Manjit Singh got his suitcase (carrying a bomb) transferred into the luggage of the flight…and he was not among the passengers who boarded the flight. A similar plan was tried on another Air India flight, headed to Tokyo, but ‘fortunately’, that plan was botched as the suitcase exploded among the baggage handlers only, killing two. During the investigation into the matter, the Canadian authorities found the hands of some “Sikh extremists” behind this. India too assigned a committee, and the CBI report held Babbar Khalsa International (BKI) — a terrorist organisation — responsible for the terror attack, under the mastermind Talwinder Singh Parmar.

Now, what is even more surprising in the episode, is that despite the bombing being the worst terror attack in Canada’s history, only one terrorist —Inderjit Singh Reyat — was convicted. The major suspect (as per reports) Talwinder Singh Parmar, was NEVER convicted. It was only in 1992, that he made the mistake of coming to India and was gunned down by the Punjab Police. Several reports also claim that due to “non-coordination” between the Canadian investigation agencies, the initial leads into the matter were never investigated properly. As per some reports, the condition was so appalling that the agencies had misunderstood the ‘practice bombing’ by terrorists as a ‘gunshot’ and refrained from any action.

The committee formed by India ‘Kirpal Committee’ headed by Kirpal Singh, concluded that there was indeed the involvement of Parmar in the bombing. It also expressed regret over the acquittal of some major suspects — Ripudaman Malik and Ajaib Singh Bagri — and stated that the authorities were just not able to put up a credible case by collating all the evidence properly. The fact that the main accused in such a major terror attack, hatched on Canadian soil, with the majority victims Canadian only, couldn’t be convicted, speaks volumes about the “influence” these extremist elements have in Canada at political as well as administrative levels.

Grand Tricolour, late-night summons: India's strong response to Khalistani  protest at UK mission - India Today

There is a new resurgence in Khalistani movement, picture shows an episode from Britain (Photo: India Today)

The New Resurgence of Khalistani Activism

The Khalistan movement (so-called) basically demands a separate country for the Sikh community in the land of Punjab. Now, making “any demand” is not wrong, but using violence and terrorism to press your cause is a crime. At first glance, it might give an untoward impression, but the fact remains that the majority of Sikhs disapprove entirely of the Khalistan issue. It is only a small section, that too, majority in foreign countries; Canada, Australia, the US, the UK and maybe a couple more. However, this passion has seen a resurgence lately, as multiple “anti-India incidents” have been reported on foreign soil in the past few months.

Many of you might remember the episode, where the Khalistani extremists put aside the Indian tricolour from the Indian High Commission in Britain, in March this year. The Indian consulate in San Francisco was also set on fire in July. Vandalism was also carried out at the Indian High Commission in Australia. Notably, these are not just allegations, and credible evidence is clearly present showing Khalistani extremists involved in these episodes. In addition to these, multiple Hindu temples have been vandalised in Canada and some cases in Australia too, with pro-Khalistan posters. Indian diplomats in foreign countries have been threatened. And, the bloody Khalistanis even carried out a whole ‘Kill India’ event across multiple nations. Despite this, there has been little action against these elements. Even if we keep the Canada syndrome aside, the actions by Australia and the UK haven’t been appreciable either.

Video: Who was Hardeep Nijjar and what was his role in Khalistan referendum  in Brampton : The Tribune India

The ugly-looking Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar (Photo: Tribune India)

The Hardeep Singh Nijjar Episode

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a designated terrorist (by NIA) and the head of Khalistan Tiger Force (an organisation banned by India). Born in a village in Punjab’s Jalandhar, he migrated to Canada in 1995 and was allegedly involved in terror activities ever since. According to the Home Ministry, he was an operative of the Babbar Khalsa terror outfit, carried out high-profile terror attacks in Punjab and was also got affiliated with terror outfits, purportedly backed by Pakistan. His outfit KTF was also aiming to revive “terrorism” and promote “target killings” in Punjab. KTF was banned earlier this year by the  Home Ministry.

So far every allegation on Nijjar is India-based, so the “vested interests” might accuse India of “falsely implicating” him. So, it is pertinent that an Interpol Red Corner Notice was also issued against Nijjar in 2016. And, the local police of Surrey had also put him under house arrest in 2018 on suspicion of “terror involvement”, however, he was released later. The fact that a designated terrorist having an Interpol Red Corner notice issued against his name was living just like a “normal citizen” in Canada, and is being still referred to like that, speaks volumes about how concerning the situation in Canada is.

June 18, 2023, Nijjar was shot down with multiple bullet shots in a Gurudwara’s parking lot in Canada’s Surrey. There are two main theories of his death. First, he was been eliminated by his erstwhile comrades, who had turned against him. Second, which is more popular and believable too, it were indeed the Indian agents who gunned him down. Despite how fancy it may sound, the fact is killing “any person” illegally on foreign soil is indeed serious, and will only bring a bad name for India. The West, does have their hypocrisy, as it is not even countable how many killings have been carried out by CIA and Mossad on foreign soil. Remember the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi Arabia, and how all the outrage against Crown Prince Salman has evaporated now. But, Nijjar was a bloody terrorist, and Canada should indeed answer why was he not being extradited to India despite multiple requests.

Also, Nijjar’s death was not the only Khalistani terrorist who died mysteriously. Avtar Singh Khanda, another Khalistani leader and handler of that half-witted Amritpal Singh, died in the UK after being diagnosed with cancer. But, interestingly, his death was also attributed to poisoning. In a separate case, in May, Khalistan Commando Force chief Paramjit Singh Panjwar was shot dead by two men on a bike in Lahore. In January, Harmeet Singh, involved in narco-terror and terror training, was killed on the premises of a gurdwara near Lahore. All these deaths have seen a consistent pattern of ‘mystery’ along with them, that how come, people India wants to kill, are getting killed just like that, giving further power to the ‘Indian Agents’ theory.

Mint Primer: Why India-Canada relations have soured | Mint

Canada PM Justin Trudeau making the bombshell allegations in Parliament (Photo: Mint)

India’s ‘Official’ Response

Life is not as ‘filmy’, as many want it to be. As I said above, India ‘illegally’ killing a foreign national based on some “terror charges”  will set a very bad name and precedent for New Delhi. Therefore, the ‘official’ statement from India has been very cautious and aggressive at the same time. New Delhi has straightaway highlighted that it had sent 26 extradition requests to Canada against Nijjar and other terrorists, but none were accepted. India has also claimed that the ongoing tensions between the two nations is because of Canada government’s “inaction”. And, in a very strong use of words, India has also called labelled Canada as a safe haven for “terrorists, extremists and organised crime”.

Labelling the Canadian allegations as “politically driven”, the Indian government straightaway refused being shared with “any such” evidence in Nijjar killing. The government accepted that Trudeau did raise the issue during G20 meeting (bilateral on sidelines), but were outrightly rejected. What is even more serious were the two big decisions by the Indian government First, stopping visa services for Canadians, which is very concerning for many, and can also have a reciprocal move which will have even hard-hitting effect. Secondly, the Indian government has also asked the Canadian government to “reduce” its diplomats in New Delhi and bring a “parity”, citing the gap in the number of Indian diplomats in Ottawa. This again shows how seriously worsened the ties are.

Bracing for soured India-Canada ties

Now, the way situation stands it is only giving negative vibes. The Canadian system is indeed questionable if it has not investigated  major terror attack properly and allows extremists ot celebrate killings openly. But, all this has further aggravated under Justin Trudeau, a leader who is in power at least till 2025. Although, the poll suggests he is lagging behind Leader of Opposition Pierre Poilievre, but who knows, he might again form a coalition government with that Khalistani Jagmeet Singh. In any of the case, the India-Canada relations — which include some massive trade — doesn’t seem to be improving anytime soon.

One thing few have pointed out in the case, is that the role of the US. Reports have claimed that the intelligence Trudeau is talking about, was in fact given by the US to its Five Eyes ally (intelligence sharing group of five English nations — US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand). So, a country which is India’s partner in both Quad and I2U2, with which we over-enthusiastically celebrate our propelling ties, indeed spied on us and shared the intelligence with a country, we are currently at odds with. There is a reason, why Henry Kissinger said, “America has no permanent friends, only permanent interests”. And it would be better, that India too adopts this mode of diplomacy  in this polarised world.



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