Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has finally left New Delhi but not before facing the embarrassment of his lacklustre response to India’s concerns over the growing threats of Khalistanis to India’s interests in his country. He was to fly on Sunday after the G20 Summit but a mechanical snag grounded him for 48-hours. During his bilateral meeting the Canadian Prime Minister indeed received ‘earful’ from his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for allowing elements like the Khalistan supporters using his country for anti-India propaganda. While Modi, who is soaked in praises from world leaders over his successful conduct of the 18th G20 Summit, sought cooperation from Trudeau to rein in Khalistan supporters, Trudeau told the media that his country would always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of peaceful protest, while acting against hatred, ‘foreign interference’.
That statement appears to have posed a serious threat to India-Canada relations because of the growing divergence between the two countries over the unchecked Khalistani extremism in the North American country. This was evident from Modi, who in unequivocal terms told his Canadian counterpart that there could not be progress between both nations without trust and mutual respect. It was Canada which sought a bilateral meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. And Modi seems to have best utilized the meeting to express India’s displeasure over the turn of events in Canada, of late. Modi reportedly used words as blunt as he could for the Trudeau government turning a blind eye while secessionism is being promoted so brazenly leading to inciting violence against not only Indian diplomats but the Indian diaspora as well. Added to the anger is Canada’s decision to suspend negotiations for free trade talks between the two nations. According to Indian authorities, the two leaders had a pull-aside on the margins of the G20 Summit. Trudeau complimented Modi over the successful conduct of the summit, yet reportedly expressed his displeasure over not inviting Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky, but also not finding the mention of Russia in the joint declaration.
As if this was not enough, Union External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar too did not mince words while blaming the Canadian PM’s ‘vote bank politics’ which tarnished that country’s image in the international arena. He even warned Canada in June that India may have to respond if activities impinged on India’s security and integrity. It is no secret that the relationship between the two countries got strained ever since Trudeau visited India in 2018 and later Khalistanis of Canadian nationality were found instigating the farmers in the agitation against the farm laws introduced by the Modi government.
Yet, unrelenting Trudeau chose to defend his stance on pro-Khalistanis in his bizarre argument that “actions of a few do not represent the entire community or country. He went on to say the flip side of it is the importance of respecting the rule of law and foreign intervention. In other words, the Canadian Prime Minister thought that India’s unwarranted pressure was nothing short of intervention into their internal affairs. In the past India had indeed asked Canada to stop the so-called “Khalistan Referendums” by the proscribed terrorist organization “Sikh for Justice (SFJ)” on November 6 in Ontario? India had also asked the Canadian government to act against those who promote terror and violence against the largest democracy in the world. Modi government told Trudeau government to ensure that no Canadian property is used to spew hatred or call for violence against Indian people. Against that backdrop, the relations between the two countries continue to slide as India considers Canada to have become yet another thorn in its flesh. This is despite Modi government’s best efforts to convince Trudeau that his government is doing the same mistake as Pakistan in allowing its soil to be used by the pro-Khalistani elements, who are bent on creating border Indian state, Punjab, which already facing the problem with Islamic or Jihadi militant groups, trained and sponsored by Pakistan. Thus far, it appears no solution in sight with an unrelenting Trudeau, who appears to be more interested in protecting his domestic political interests.