India Alludes to ‘Climate of Violence and Intimidation’ Against Diplomats in Canada

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 28: (L-R) Indian External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar delivers brief remarks to the press before meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the U.S. State Department September 28, 2023 in Washington, DC. In addition to meeting with Blinken, Jaishankar will also meet with White House officials, business leaders, and representatives from think tanks during his trip to the U.S. Drew Angerer/Getty Images/AFP (Photo by Drew Angerer / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP)

Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Friday, September 29, 2023, that there is a “climate of violence” and an “atmosphere of intimidation” towards the ranks of Indian diplomats in Canada, a country where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.

“Because there is freedom of opinion, giving threats and intimidating diplomats in my opinion is unacceptable,” Jaishankar told the media while in Washington.

Relations between India and Canada have been strained recently, largely due to the presence of Sikh separatist groups in Canada who promote their Khalistan movement.

Quoting from The Straits Times page , Saturday, September 30 2023, the Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has not responded to a request for comment regarding Jaishankar’s latest comments.

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that Indian agents may have played a role in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June. Nijjar, who is also a Canadian citizen, has been labeled by India as a “terrorist.”

New Delhi dismissed Canada’s accusations as absurd. Meanwhile, the United States (US) urged India to cooperate with Canada in the investigation into Nijjar’s murder.

In 2018, PM Trudeau assured India that Canada would not support anyone trying to revive a separatist movement in India, and repeatedly said that he respected the right to freedom of expression and the gathering of protesters to demonstrate.

Khalistan Movement

Canada is home to the Sikh community, and Indian leaders say some fringe groups there remain sympathetic to the cause of an independent Sikh state. The Sikh struggle received almost no support in India.

The push for the establishment of a Khalistan state has emerged many times in India, and most prominently during the violent uprisings in the 1980s and 1990s which paralyzed the state of Punjab for more than a decade.

The uprising killed tens of thousands of people, and the Khalistan movement is considered a security threat by the Indian government. Sikh militants were blamed for the bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India in 1985, killing all 329 people on board.

Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards, after she allowed the storming of Sikhism’s holiest shrine, with the aim of luring out separatists.

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