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Canada’s Khalistani Quagmire

Justin Trudeau regime cannot soft pedal growing anti-India campaigns that reportedly have deep connect with Pakistani military establishment

Rahul Pawa

Multi-culturalism and inclusivity central to Canadian identity are under stringent scrutiny. Recent incidents in Canada have not only unveiled a surge in Hindu-phobia and Khalistani extremism but have spotlighted a shadow of external influences, prominently emanating from Pakistan. 


This escalation rooted in historical context pose substantial challenges for the nation\’s social fabric, especially its diplomatic relationship with India. The imperative now lies in comprehending these dynamics and the ramifications they present for Indo-Canadian ties.

Pakistan\’s vested interest in de-stabilizing India is not new. Time and again, evidence has surfaced of Pakistan\’s support to factions opposing India in Canada with Khalistani extremists being prime example. As per several reports, the backing is not just ideological. It encompasses financial, logistical and even militaristic aid.

A grim reminder of this is the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985. Originating from Canada, this catastrophic act led to loss of 329 lives, comprising mainly Canadians, British and Indian nationals. Subsequent investigations pointed to Khalistani extremists in British Columbia having tangible connections to Pakistan.

Mastermind behind this heinous act, Talwinder Singh Parmar found his way to Pakistan from where he continued to spearhead terrorist operations against India. More so, it is widely reported that the situation is further complicated by presence of immigrants in Canada which have previously served Pakistani Army or its notorious spy agency ISI, potentially becoming conduits for de-stabilizing agendas.

Recent occurrences in Canada, highlighting a troubled surge in Hindu-phobia and Khalistani extremism have prompted grave concerns. The deliberate and systematic targeting of Hindu temples from January\’s attack on Gauri Shankar to unsettling assault on the Lakshmi Narayan Mandir in Surrey on August 12, 2023 underscores the emerging threat.

The situation was further exacerbated by Khalistan Rally on July 8. Pamphlets distributed in this rally targeting Indian diplomats not only in Canada but also in US and Australia has upped the ante. These threats directly endanger Indian government officials and their families, creating an atmosphere of heightened tension.

Far from being isolated incidents, these actions appear to be in line with a larger, orchestrated agenda. More than just demand for a separate Khalistani state, they echo a wider anti-India sentiment. The timing of these actions seems more than coincidental as they emerged against backdrop of Pakistan grappling with a plethora of internal challenges.

By stoking Khalistani narrative abroad, particularly in nations home to significant Indian diaspora like Canada, Pakistan attempts to divert international attention from its internal strife, painting a narrative of oppressed minorities within India. Fostering tensions between nations such as Canada and India dovetail with Pakistan\’s broader geopolitical strategies in South Asia. By promoting Anti-Hindu and Anti-India sentiments, Pakistan seeks a diplomatic edge India.

Canada\’s reticence in tackling these developments is alarming. Even with historical markers like the Pakistan-backed 1985 Air India bombing, Canada has seemingly tiptoed around the issue. This reluctance is not just an oversight; it\’s a glaring diplomatic miscalculation. This hesitancy reached a crescendo during Trudeau\’s 2018 India trip, where a former Khalistani terrorist was discovered on an official event guest list. Such lapses cast shadow on Canada\’s commitment to combat extremism.

Several reasons underline why Canada needs to spring into action. Primarily, these events test the nation\’s multicultural foundations. If religious or cultural identity becomes grounds for targeting, Canada\’s societal bedrock is at risk. Diplomatically, the stakes are even higher. Canada\’s relationship with India, entrenched in trade, education, technology, and cultural exchanges, hangs in the balance. India\’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has made it clear: bilateral ties are at a crossroads if Canada doesn\’t adequately address these issues.

Canada\’s political landscape and its implications for Indo-Canadian relations cannot be overlooked. At the helm of Canada\’s minority government is Justin Trudeau whose power is buttressed by the New Democratic Party (NDP) led by Jagmeet Singh, a known Khalistani sympathiser. Singh’s NDP, with its crucial 24 seats in the parliament, plays an instrumental role in Trudeau\’s political survival.

In the 2019 Canadian general elections, Trudeau\’s Liberal Party secured 157 seats falling short of the majority mark at 170. This necessitated reliance on the support of legislators from left-leaning parties, prominently the NDP. In the aftermath of elections, Trudeau and Singh forged an alliance through the confidence-and-supply agreement slated to last until 2025.

The strength of this partnership was evident when NDP threw its weight behind Trudeau during an opposition-led attempt to probe alleged Chinese interference in Canada\’s elections. The security of this political backing has seemingly emboldened Singh. Armed with the leverage his party exerts over Trudeau\’s government, he has been vociferously critical of India and openly supportive of Khalistani cause. Given this dynamic, Canada\’s approach to issues like Khalistani extremism and Hindu-phobia becomes inherently tied to its internal politics, with potential ramifications for its international relations, especially with India.

Pakistan\’s shadow in the surge of Hindu-phobia and Khalistani extremism in Canada is hard to ignore. Its intentions, while covert, have clear patterns that trace back decades. For Canada, the stakes are high. Addressing this issue requires more than mere recognition; it demands action. Internally, a stronger stance against extremist elements, externally, transparency in diplomatic engagements, particularly with India and a careful re-evaluation of its ties with nations promoting extremism are crucial.

Ignoring this burgeoning crisis is a risk Canada cannot afford, both for its internal cohesion and its global diplomatic standing. The time for decisive action is now.

(Author is Research Director at Centre for Integrated and Holistic Studies, a non-partisan think tank based in New Delhi)

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