Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on his first official visit to India along with his family.
Contrary to the norm, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not turn up to receive Trudeau at the airport which has become news. When Trudeau visited Modi’s own Gujarat, the Prime Minister failed to arrive then as well. Modi who is usually vigilant in chaperoning all the prominent political leaders visiting India to Gujarat, boarded the flight to Karnataka for poll campaigns when Trudeau reached Ahmedabad. Prime Minister Modi had heartily taken China’s President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Gujarat. The reason for responding differently towards Canada is overtly the fact that when Modi paid a visit to that country in 2016, Prime Minister Trudeau had sent a junior member of his cabinet to receive Modi instead of going himself. The diplomacy of tit for tat is not per se a wrong step. But the point to ponder is whether that is the only factor behind it.
Canada has the largest number of Sikhs after India. Over 4.5 lakh Sikhs reside in Canada, forming 1.5 per cent of the total population. The Sikhs have good influence and representation in politics too thanks to the good reputation they earned as a religious minority that toil hard and live peacefully. There are four Sikhs of Indian origin in Trudeau’s cabinet. It is this factor which should be boosting the friendly ties between India and Canada that has ironically cast a dark shadow on the relations between the two nations. It was the Sikh minority in Canada that played a major role in strengthening the Khalistan movement which vitiated the internal affairs in India during the 80s and 90s. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had attended a parade held in connection with the Khalsa Day organized by the Khalistan supporters in Toronto in April last year. This had irked India and the country had strongly protested then. During the parade, Trudeau had also praised a Sikh politician in the Ontario assembly for presenting a resolution which described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as ‘genocide’. This also invited protest by India. The same parade also glorified the Khalistan militant leaders Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, Amreek Singh and General Shahbeg Singh who were killed during Operation Bluestar in 1984. Canadian Sikhs are also reportedly calling for a Sikh plebiscite called ‘Referendum 2020’ all over the world in order to realize the idea of Khalistan.
Such acts of the Khalistan activists are certainly a challenge raised against the sovereignty of India. The country cannot brook any move to separate the Punjab which is an integral part of India. The former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had to sacrifice her life for this. But instead of seeing that sacrifice in good spirit, the Sangh Parivar have always tried to take utmost capital out of the Sikh community's protests against anti-Sikh riots which followed the assassination in 1984, and their vengeful attitude. When it is a fact that the heinous massacre of Sikhs was one in which the RSS had played a major part, the BJP was, in a later somersault, exploiting the anti-Congress feeling of Akalis. It is such double standards that get reflected in the diplomacy of Narendra Modi too. The disapproval shown by Modi, who revels as a globe-trotter spending considerable time abroad, against Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau only serves to expose his diplomatic efficiency. Diplomacy is the art of making even a real enemy one's friend. And Canada, a substantially rich and peaceful Western country, is also one where millions of Indians seek their livelihood. Trudeau's visit was a rare opportunity to receive such a country’s prime minister and to impress on him our secular democratic culture, and the relevance of India's firm stance of rejecting secessionism of any hue. Although it cannot be said that such an opportunity was entirely wasted, there was no reason for the intelligent Canadian PM not to feel that he was deliberately ignored. And it is likely to affect the natural love the Sikh minority, including those in Canada should have for their mother land.