NOTWITHSTANDING the absence of any support for Khalistan on Indian soil and the rejection of religious secessionism by a vast majority of Sikhs worldwide, violence and espousal of separatism have grown in Canada. This has been fuelled by a small number of Sikh radicals living there. Such sentiments exist to a lesser extent in Britain, the US, Australia and New Zealand. Canada is, however, not the only country where terrorists are aiding, financing or orchestrating violence and terrorism in Punjab and elsewhere in India. There have been regular instances of such extremists having entered India illegally from Pakistan to carry out terror attacks. They have invariably been eliminated. The modus operandi of Khalistanis abroad is to take increasing control of cash-rich gurdwaras and thereafter use them as bases for promoting militancy. They also fund terrorist activities abroad by diverting funds collected from devotees. Foreign-based militants also contribute generously to local political parties in election campaigns, essentially to help preferred candidates and political parties win. Canada is a hub of such activities.
Trudeau needs to be told that in his quest for votes of Canadian Sikhs, he has created serious problems for India.
While a handful of local Sikhs may appear during demonstrations in some European cities, the situation is totally different in Canada, where funds are made available liberally and routinely to people determined to undermine India’s security. More seriously, there is a common feature during pilgrims’ visits to prominent Sikh shrines in Pakistan, such as Gurdwara Dera Sahib (Lahore) and Gurdwara Nankana Sahib, near Islamabad. While these gurdwaras were neglected for decades by Pakistan, it was the wily and duplicitous Gen Zia-ul-Haq who decided that Pakistan would use its Sikh shrines to subvert pilgrims. General Zia’s propaganda proclaimed that Sikhism had many features in common with Islam, while rejecting links with Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Sikh pilgrims from India know that this idea is nonsensical.
The primary focus of Pakistan’s propaganda is now aimed at influencing Sikhs living in the US, UK, Canada and Australia, and those from India who visit shrines in Pakistan. The Pakistan army and the ISI, which have spearheaded these efforts, have no intention to stop hatching conspiracies to promote separatism and hatred for India. This writer has seen Khalistan flags put up by the ISI around Gurdwara Dera Sahib. This happened even during the ‘goodwill’ visit to Lahore by then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. This was also promoted by former PM Nawaz Sharif, who invariably talked of goodwill while misleading a large section of Indians into believing that he was a strong champion of friendship and cooperation with India.
These are issues one has to remember while dealing with opinionated Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. He needs to be told in no uncertain terms that in his quest for votes of Sikh citizens, he has created serious problems for India by cosying up to a very small section of Canada’s population which believes that it can reinforce Pakistan’s ambitions to create Khalistan in India.
While the neighbour’s efforts to support jihadis for operations in India are predictable, this has hurt Pakistan both economically and politically. What has been shocking is the weird affection of the Trudeau family for Khalistani terrorists during the tenure of present PM Justin Trudeau and his father Pierre Trudeau; the latter served as the PM from 1968 to 1979 and then from 1980 to 1984. The Trudeau family also has a notorious record of affection for Pakistan-sponsored terrorists.
In his recent book Blood for Blood, Canadian journalist Terry Milewski has given a detailed account of the idiosyncrasies of both generations of the Trudeaus. He has written: “It was Pierre Trudeau’s government which rejected an Indian request in 1982 to extradite Talwinder Singh Parmar to India on the weird grounds that India was not deferential to the Head of the Commonwealth, Queen Elizabeth.” Trudeau Senior evidently forgot that India is a republic that elects its own President. Worse still, the mastermind of the Air India Flight 182 bombing in 1985, in which 329 people were killed, was none other than Parmar.
Given PM Justin Trudeau’s need for electoral support and his dependence on a significant number of Khalistanis in Canada, it would be unrealistic to expect that he would take any action against persons who are known to be pro-Khalistan. But there is a feeling in Canada that while Trudeau can continue in his present term till 2025, he no longer commands the respect he once enjoyed. India’s relations with Canada are, therefore, unlikely to improve anytime soon. Trudeau will continue to depend significantly on Khalistan-inclined extremists for quite some time.
A relatively new and important factor that has come into play in India’s relations with Canada is the growing number of Indian students in Canadian universities. Indian students may not be as comfortable as they have been in recent years if Trudeau continues with his policies which promote dislike for India and Indians. Canada was chosen for university education by around 2.3 lakh Indian students last year. They constitute around 40 per cent of all foreign students in Canada. Their parents will naturally expect them to complete their university studies peacefully after having spent a substantial portion of family savings on their education. While one can hope that Indian students will be safe in Canada, one wonders whether India can ever be sure of the behaviour of an erratic Trudeau towards India and Indians.
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