When a country’s foreign diplomats fear for their safety, it indicates a severe dereliction of international standards of diplomatic immunity and security. Adding fuel to the ongoing tension, a “Kill India” poster released by Pro-Khalistani leaders in Canada has elicited a wave of outrage. The controversial poster directly accuses Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma and Consul General of India in Toronto, Apoorva Srivastava, of being involved in the assassination of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a designated terrorist and the head of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was recently possibly killed due to inter-gang warfare in a Sikh-majority town near Vancouver. This event has provoked an uproar among extremist elements, leading to a planned protest targeting Indian diplomats in Canada. Such actions are not just unjust but also detrimental to the broader diplomatic ties that these two vibrant democracies share.
The controversial poster serves as an open invitation to the “Khalistan Freedom Rally” set to take place on July 8. The march will commence at the Great Punjab Business Centre Malton and culminate at the Indian diplomatic representation in Toronto, which is referred to as an Embassy in the poster. These mistakes in the poster also raise the possibility of the involvement of entities from outside of Canada. Additionally, the poster includes photos of Indian officials and provocatively accuses them of being responsible for Nijjar’s death.
Despite reassurances by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to the Indian High Commission, these circumstances signal a stark issue that the Trudeau government needs to address – the increasingly bold Khalistan extremist activities on Canadian soil. Political considerations and their potential influence on electoral dynamics have previously kept the Canadian government from taking decisive measures. Yet, one has to question – at what cost?
In contrast to the rhetoric of these extremists, Khalistan has little to no takers in Punjab, the Indian state it ostensibly represents. Instead, this movement seems to find more vocal support among a small section of the Indian diaspora in countries like Canada, the UK, the US and Australia. By holding rallies and spreading hate speech, they not only aim to disrupt the peace within these societies but also jeopardize bilateral ties with India.
In response to these escalating incidents, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar issued a stern warning to partner countries. “We have requested our partner countries like Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia, where Khalistani activities sometimes occur, not to provide a platform to Khalistani elements,” said Jaishankar in a recent press meet. He noted that their radical and extremist ideology is detrimental not only to India and their host countries but also to bilateral ties.
Expressing India’s intention to elevate the matter with the concerned governments, Jaishankar said, “We will raise the issue of posters with those governments. I believe it would have already been done by now.” This posture signals India’s resolve to address the menace of Khalistani extremism, especially when it threatens its diplomats stationed overseas.
These developments cast a shadow on India’s relations with these nations, reminding all parties involved that a hands-off approach to Khalistani extremism is untenable. These actions not only challenge the very foundations of diplomatic immunity but also undermine the mutual respect and cooperation that should characterize bilateral relationships.
Canada, as a staunch advocate for human rights and democratic values, cannot afford to remain passive towards the increasing belligerence of these separatist elements. Allowing such provocative activities undermines Canada’s international standing and commitment to these values.
Khalistani separatists, like those who plan to rally in Toronto and Vancouver, must be recognized for what they are – a fringe group with an agenda that is not in line with the aspirations of the Punjabi people in India. Their efforts to rally support and fuel violence against India, and more worryingly, against Indians residing in Canada, are not expressions of democratic dissent. They are, quite simply, acts of extremism.
For Canada and India to nurture their bilateral ties and advance shared interests, it is essential for Canada to take decisive action against such extremist elements. The security of diplomats should be non-negotiable, and the right to protest should not extend to open threats and violence.
In the interest of peace, diplomatic security, and the preservation of strong Canada-India relations, it is time for the Canadian government to reconsider its stance towards Khalistani separatists and reassert its commitment to the democratic values it holds dear.