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Khalistan in the limelight The Excelsior 26 Sept 2023
Justin Trudeau commenced the Indo-Canadian diplomatic standoff by blaming India for the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a terrorist on Canadian soil, while investigations were still ongoing. He attempted to draw in other nations, including the US, UK and Australia into the tussle, which they sidetracked. Trudeau’s illogical action provided Khalistan supporters undesired global media coverage, possibly intentionally by Trudeau, as his government’s survival is dependent on a pro-Khalistan political party.
This opportunity was grabbed by the convenor of the Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) movement, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun. In a video release he warned ‘Indo-Hindu’s’ of violence, advising them to return to India. He had earlier threatened closure of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, on grounds of Trudeau being ignored during the G20. The reaction to the threats by the Canadian government came two days later.
The only nation which has backed Canada has been its blood brother in supporting terrorists, Pakistan. An honour for Canada. Pak foreign office spokesperson, Mumtaz Baloch stated, ‘India’s network of extra-territorial killings has now gone global.’ She added that Pakistan has been a target of a series of ‘killings and espionage’ by the Indian intelligence agency, RAW. Its caretaker PM, Anwaar Kakar, stated in New York, ‘they (India) are becoming emboldened in a manner that they are now going beyond the region.’
The Chinese media poked fun at Trudeau. One media house stated, ‘for handsome guy Trudeau, he (PM Modi) had a cold face that couldn’t be colder.’ Another mentioned, ‘Canada and India have been in constant conflict over the years over the issue of anti-India protests by Sikhs. While attending an Indian Sikh event in the country, Trudeau expressed support for these protests.’
Nijjar’s son’s statement that his father met Canadian intelligence officials regularly endorses official Canadian support to the movement. The last week murder of Punjab politician, Baljinder Singh Balli, was claimed by Canada based gangster and designated terrorist Arsh Dalla. In a post he stated, ‘I am responsible for the murder of Balli in Dala village because it was my own village politics which made me tread this path.’ India has repeatedly asked for Dalla’s extradition but to no avail. Trudeau avoids acting against Khalistan terrorists solely for political gains, while terming Canada as a nation adhering to the rule of law.
The Indian NIA (National Investigation Agency) recently released list of 43 terrorists, many based in Canada and almost all with links to the Khalistan movement. Sukhdool Singh, alias Sukha Duneke, a member of the Arsh Dalla gang, and one of those listed, was killed last week in Winnipeg. It was an inter-gang killing, with a rival gang claiming credit. The fact remains that Sukhdool carried a reward from the NIA on his head, which may be claimed by his killers.
Nijjar also had a bounty of Rs 10 Lakhs on his head. As per the Canadian government, ‘a contract for Nijjar was circulating for several weeks on an encrypted online site used to hire hitmen.’ The reward could have opened doors for bounty seekers. Legally, India can announce rewards for people it considers terrorists, if the state protecting them, in this case Canada, refuses to act. There are also reports that Canada, a nation which claims to adhere to the ‘rule of law,’ had illegally monitored Indian diplomatic communications, hence fears sharing intelligence of the killing with India.
This gains credence with the Indian Foreign Office spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, stating in his weekly briefing, last Thursday, ‘No specific information has been shared by Canada on the Nijjar killing case; all allegations are politically motivated. From our side, specific evidence about criminal activities by individuals based on the Canadian soil has been shared with Canada but not acted upon.’ Evidently the battle will not end anytime soon as Canada lacks proof, and Trudeau jumped the gun.
India will, on its part, now demand that Canada extradite known terrorists, on whom India has provided evidence. If Canada refuses to act, this will be exploited on the global stage of Canada protecting terrorists.
Pakistan, which has actively been pursuing the Khalistan agenda and backing Canada will exploit the scenario. Its agents in Canada will push Khalistan leaders to enhance their activities. Pak support is evident from the ‘proposed Khalistan map’ which includes all Indian states bordering Pak, less J and K, which Pak claims. No part of Pakistan is included.
Canada’s reputation as a safe haven for terrorists has been growing. As the Indian spokesperson stated, ‘If you’re talking about reputational issues and reputational damage, if there’s any country that needs to look at this, I think it is Canada and its growing reputation as a place, as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organized crime. And I think that’s a country that needs to worry about its international reputation.’
Globally, many nations including Israel and the US, have eliminated terrorists on others soil, when those nations have refused to cooperate. Trudeau, by his accusations, has equated Indian RAW to MOSSAD. By stating it was an Indian hand he has enhanced fear amongst Khalistan supporters, pushing many, including Pannun, to enhance personal security while remaining largely in hiding. Within Punjab, which the Khalistani’s seek to enflame, over 95% are against the movement.
The accusation has also given a political boost to PM Modi as India moves into election mode. Many Indians who believed the government never retaliates against those who target it would now consider the current government in better light.
However, Trudeau’s announcement will result in increased protests by supporters of the Khalistan movement in Australia, UK and the US, soaking in the limelight provided by Trudeau’s untimely outburst. Any untoward incident against Indian diplomatic property or non-Sikhs in any of these countries, especially in Canada, would provide India an opportunity to embarrass Canada and Trudeau.
India has also taken advantage of the scenario by issuing its list of Canada-based terrorists, for whom it would demand extradition, placing Trudeau in a global diplomatic spot. Refusal or inaction by the current Canadian government will lead to India embarrassing it on the global stage.
Trudeau has commenced a skirmish which may possibly backfire as also embarrass Canada.