Trudeau’s presence at Sikh rally further inflames India ties as Canadian PM accused of ‘encouraging climate of violence’

by Biman Mukherji at

A decision by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to attend a rally in Toronto supporting a separatist Sikh movement has aggravated already strained relations between his country and India.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs condemned Trudeau’s act and summoned the Canadian deputy high commissioner “with regard to the raising of separatist slogans on ‘Khalistan’ at an event which was being personally addressed by the Prime Minister of Canada”.
“This illustrates once again the political space that has been given in Canada to separatism, extremism and violence. Their continued expressions not only impact India-Canada relations but also encourage a climate of violence and criminality,” the ministry said in a statement late Monday.

Analysts say Trudeau’s move showed “no appreciation of Indian concerns in Canada”, with the seemingly ill-advised visit expected to further put off New Delhi from ironing out ties with Ottawa.

Relations between the two sides have soured in recent months over a series of events following accusations by Trudeau’s government that Indian intelligence agents were involved in the 2023 murder of Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Nijjar was part of a movement to create an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan that had rocked northern India’s Punjab state in the 1980s and early 1990s. Today, the advocates are mostly among Punjabi overseas diaspora, many of whom are settled in the North American nation. India has often complained to Canada about the activities of Sikh hardliners.

Indian intelligence agencies were also alarmed by the presence of “Modi Wanted” banners allegedly put up at the Toronto gathering by secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) in response to Nijjar’s killing, The Times of India reported.

While New Delhi has repeatedly blamed Trudeau for failing to reign in Khalistani separatists and playing “vote bank politics” with the Punjabi diaspora, observers were divided over whether the government overreacted with an eye to gain votes in ongoing Indian elections.