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29 Apr, 2024 17:01

India summons Canadian diplomat over separatist slogans

New Delhi has strongly reacted to PM Justin Trudeau’s participation in an event where slogans in support of a Sikh state were chanted
India summons Canadian diplomat over separatist slogans

India has lodged a formal protest with Canada over the chanting of pro-Khalistan slogans at a public event on Sunday in Toronto attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Monday summoned the Canadian deputy high commissioner over the matter, the ministry said in a statement. 

Khalistan supporters seek to create an independent state for India’s Sikh minority, a movement that New Delhi sees as a threat to domestic security.  

“The Government of India’s deep concern and strong protest was conveyed at such disturbing actions being allowed to continue unchecked at the event,” the statement noted. “This illustrates once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence.” This not only impacts India-Canada relations but also “encourage a climate of violence and criminality in Canada to the detriment of its own citizens,” New Delhi warned.  

The event in question was Vaisakhi, also known as Khalsa Day, one of Toronto’s largest annual events, which drew thousands of people to the city’s downtown area, Canadian public broadcaster CBC reported. Vaisakhi marks the Sikh New Year and the establishment of the Sikh community in 1699, according to the Ontario Sikhs and Gurdwaras Council.

Besides Trudeau, several other Canadian officials addressed the gathering, including Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, and Toronto Mayor Olivia Chow. Several videos were posted on X (formerly Twitter) showing pro-Khalistan slogans being chanted during Trudeau’s speech. 

In his address, Trudeau, who last September publicly accused the Indian government of being involved in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whom New Delhi considered a terrorist, vowed to always protect the rights and freedoms of Sikhs in Canada and defend the community against hatred and discrimination. 

Indian-Canadian relations saw a dramatic deterioration following Trudeau’s accusation. India denied the allegations, calling them “absurd” and “motivated.” New Delhi on multiple occasions stated that Canada had not shared specific or relevant information with India to substantiate its charges but that it would look into the matter if any data were provided. Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar stated that it was not the government’s policy to undertake such actions. 

In the early days of the row, the countries expelled each other’s diplomats and India briefly stopped issuing visas to Canadians, citing security threats. A free-trade agreement between the two countries, which was close to being sealed, has also been put on the back burner, and the number of Indian students going to Canada for higher education sharply decreased.

Meanwhile, India has repeatedly expressed its concerns to Canada, which is home to the largest Sikh diaspora in the world, about harboring “extremist” elements on its soil.

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