Modi Airs Concerns Over Sikh Protests in Canada at G20 Summit

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Amid the ongoing G20 summit held in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised stern concerns over protests against India in Canada during a heartfelt conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Stemming from historical unease, New Delhi has shown discomfort about the Sikh protesters in Canada for a considerable period.

The Indian government voiced strong criticism in June when Canada permitted a parade float that showcased the 1984 assassination of then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards. Such representation was considered by India as an endorsement of violence orchestrated by Sikh separatists.

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Reading from the Indian delegation’s statement, it was said, “These protesters are instigating secessionism, inciting violence against Indian diplomats, causing harm to diplomatic establishments, and posing threats to the Indian community in Canada, including their religious sanctuaries.”

The relationship between India and Canada continues to be strained. Earlier this month, Ottawa halted discussion on a proposed trade agreement with India. A stark contrast to what appeared to be a promising alliance only three months earlier when both countries expressed their enthusiasm to finalize an initial pact this year. Notably, Prime Minister Modi did not engage in a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Trudeau amid the flurry of discussions with other world leaders at the G20 summit.

Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after she sanctioned an assault on the holiest Sikh temple in northern India in order to eliminate Sikh separatists who were advocating for an independent territory dubbed Khalistan.

Canada hosts the second-largest Sikh population after their native Indian state of Punjab. The nation has repeatedly been the stage for protests that have vexed India.

Nevertheless, Trudeau emphasized Canada’s commitment to “freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and peaceful protest,” during a press conference in New Delhi. Trudeau asserted that even as Canada stands against violence and hatred, the actions of a few should not be seen as reflective of the entire community or the nation of Canada.

An unexpected hiccup in the form of a technical issue with the Canadian delegation’s aircraft led to a delay in Trudeau’s exit from the G20 summit, as per information from the prime minister’s office. The delegation is set to remain in India until alternate travel arrangements can be made.