Canada’s Endorsement Of Terrorism Will Come Back To Haunt It – Analysis

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By Sushant Sareen and Gautam Chikermane

Relations between India and Canada have been strained ever since Justin Trudeau became Prime Minister. But it is, perhaps, Trudeau’s most dubious achievement to have deteriorated relations with India to a point where Canada is now being seen by most Indians as a new Pakistan. If the India-Canada bilateral readouts after the brief meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi reflected a relationship that’s destined to head the Pakistan way, then the diplomatic war that has been declared by Trudeau and joined by India has ended all pretence of normal ties and reduced Canada to the status of a new Pakistan.

Matters should have never reached such a pass. Both India and Canada have a lot that binds them together—democracy, diaspora (excluding the pernicious parts of it), defence and strategic ties, and, of course, a mutually beneficial economic relationship. And yet, the relations have been allowed to be held hostage by a small but well-organised fringe among the Canadian Sikh community.

Trudeau’s domestic political compulsions have forced him to pander to some of the most toxic elements of Canadian public life—the supporters of the Khalistanmovement, many of whom are members of Trudeau’s party, even his cabinet. His kowtowing to them reached a whole new level after the last general elections, which made his government dependent on the support of an unabashed Khalistani Jagmeet Dhaliwal’s New Democratic Party. With Khalistanis becoming more visible, vocal and even active in plugging their pernicious campaign against India, Trudeau started to wade into issues that clearly constituted interference in India’s internal affairs—the playbook support to protests against farm laws in 2021, for instance. Ironically, despite Canada and Khalistani Canadians openly interfering in India by supporting terrorism and separatism and taking responsibility for gangland killings in India, it was Canadian officials who first started alleging that India was interfering in Canadian affairs.

For someone like Trudeau—whose statements have strained relations with India because of what he calls interference in Canadian affairs and the need to uphold Canadian sovereignty—the nonchalance of his entitlement to comment on India’s internal affairs was rather incongruous. It is quite bizarre that Trudeau has decided to set bilateral relations aflame on nothing more than “credible allegations”, and a “potential link”; statements that he has since backtracked on. It is equally bizarre that his foreign minister announced the expulsion of a diplomat on merely an “allegation that a representative of a foreign government may have been involved”, and that allegation “if proven true…”. But it’s not surprising, considering that Trudeau is desperately trying to resurrect his falling political fortunes. At the least, it’s immature; at most, it’s Ottawa going all out to support the world’s No. 1 problem—terrorism.

Terrorism at the heart of tensions

The fundamental issue between India and Canada, like between India and Pakistan, is terrorism. Canada is turning a blind eye to the activities of subversive and radical elements who are using Canadian soil to destabilise India and carry out political assassinations and gangland killings, fund subversive elements, and support narcotics and human trafficking networks inside India. This is unacceptable. These were things Pakistan was notorious for. Canada followed. And now it has become Ottawa’s state policy to support terrorists, working on its soil, against India.

Trudeau explains it, in a flippant manner, as protecting freedom of speech and freedom of conscience. For their part, Islamabad defends its support for terrorists under the label of right to self-determination. Nice sounding words and concepts, except that they are both being utterly disingenuous. The people whose freedom of speech and conscience and right to self-determination they are defending are, in fact, the worst violators of these same rights when it comes to those who disagree with them.

Just as the Pakistanis are quick to speak with a forked tongue and assure the world that they will crack down on terrorism, so too is the Trudeau regime in Canada. While in Delhi for the G20 Summit, Trudeau claimed that “we are always there to prevent violence and to push back against hatred”. But, so far, there has been absolutely no action taken by the Canadian authorities against Khalistanis who have openly been targeting Indian diplomats, have been running a campaign to “Kill India” (isn’t that hate speech?), have vandalised the Indian consulates and High Commission, and have defiled Hindu temples. Further, Khalistani gangs have intimidated and threatened non-Khalistan Canadians (Sikhs and Hindus). All this while Canadian authorities have preferred to look away.

Parallels with Pakistan and its disingenuous ways

This is so much like what happens in Pakistan. Is Pakistani diplomats openly having deliberations with Khalistanis normal diplomatic activity in the eyes of Canadian authorities? If so, Canada must be reminded of the nexus between Khalistani Canadians and Pakistanis that wreaked havoc in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s. Normally, if the Khalistanis were blowing off steam and hot air, India would have ignored them with the contempt they deserve. But the track record of the Khalistanis—involvement in the bombing of the AI182, bomb blasts in Tokyo’s Narita airport, the funding of subversives and political agitation in India, and freely flowing in a never-ending river of hate speech against India—means that India cannot ignore what has been happening in Canada.

The stage for the current spat (predicted by a Canadian politician) was probably set during the meeting between Prime Ministers Modi and Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Delhi. In a 10 September 2023 bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Modi, Trudeau was steadfast in his resolve to support terrorists on Canadian soil. In fact, the two readouts could have been talking about two different events.

Modi raised concerns about the anti-India activities of “extremist elements in Canada” who are “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organised crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats.” Mutual respect and trust, he said, is essential for the India-Canada relationship to progress.

Trudeau’s version of the same conversation was so benign that it was almost like the two had not met at all. To him, the meeting was about inclusive economic growth; access to concessional finance for sustainable development; the welcoming of the African Union as a member of G20; and the importance of respecting the rule of law, democratic principles, and national sovereignty.

Trudeau defended his stance as one that is meant to protect freedom of speech. “Obviously, Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of peaceful protest. That is something extremely important to us,” he said, while justifying Khalistani terrorists operating from Canadian soil. “At the same time, we are always there to prevent violence to push back against hatred. I think on the issue of community, it is important to remember that the actions of the few do not represent the entire community or Canada.”

Nobody is arguing that every Sikh is a terrorist. But the shield called “few” that Trudeau raised merely hyphenates him further and equates his actions with those of the Pakistani army. There is nothing he or his government has done to fix the problem. “It a matter of concern that freedom of expression and speech is once again being misused by anti-India elements based in Canada and elsewhere,” India’s Official Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had said on 6 July 2023. “…the issue is not about freedom of expression, but its misuse for advocating violence, for propagating separatism and for legitimizing terrorism.”

Like the attacks on the Indian High Commission in London, those in Canada, Bagchi said, will be judged by “what happens on the ground. In the name of freedom of expression, we should not be giving space to those who advocate violence or, as I said, propagate separatism or legitimise terrorism.” In the United States, for instance, the arson attempt on the Indian Consulate in San Francisco was brought under control. No such action has happened in Canada. Clearly, expressions such as free speech and all its liberal cousins are merely diversionary tactics.

Until now, sovereign support to terrorism seemed to be a monopoly of Pakistan and its most high-profile export to the world. Now, unfortunately, Canada is catching up. A wealthy G7 nation, with a per capita income of US$55,000, appears to be following the terror-support and terror-export playbook of its Pakistani counterparts. Terror factories in both nations are led by religious fanatics, whose actions tar their entire communities, when most just want to get by. And both are protected by sovereign leaders and institutions—the army and the governments in Islamabad, and the Trudeau government in Ottawa. But as Pakistan is realising—and Canada will soon—terrorists need to create terror and it is only a matter of time before they turn against their patrons.

The Ottawa-Islamabad terror-hyphenation is complete.

As far as India goes, there are five things it must do. First, it must initiate FATF (Financial Action Task Force) proceedings against Canadian terror financing routes. Second, it must tighten the vigil on OCI (Overseas Citizen of India) status granted to Indian Canadians; this is a privilege, not an entitlement. Third, it must issue travel advisories to citizens of India wanting to travel to Canada and restrict who enters India from Canada. Fourth, at some stage, a diplomatic downgrade might need to be considered. And finally, the India-Canada FTA (Free Trade Agreement) is off the table because clearly Trudeau’s Canada thinks it is better off aligning with the China-Pakistan terror axis than address India’s serious and legitimate concerns.


About the authors:

  • Sushant Sareen is Senior Fellow at the Observer Research Foundation.
  • Gautam Chikermane is Vice President at the Observer Research Foundation.

Source: This article was published by the Observer Research Foundation.

Observer Research Foundation

ORF was established on 5 September 1990 as a private, not for profit, ’think tank’ to influence public policy formulation. The Foundation brought together, for the first time, leading Indian economists and policymakers to present An Agenda for Economic Reforms in India. The idea was to help develop a consensus in favour of economic reforms.

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