During a sideline meeting at the G20 summit in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his strong concerns regarding ongoing Sikh protests in Canada to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, according to an official statement from India.
The Indian government has long been sensitive to Sikh-related protests in Canada. Recall that in June, India criticized Canada for permitting a parade float that depicted the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards. This display was perceived by India as glorification of violence by Sikh separatist groups.
In their official statement, India asserted that these protests were promoting secessionism, inciting violence against Indian diplomats, causing damage to diplomatic facilities, and posing threats to the Indian community in Canada, as well as their places of worship.
This ongoing tension has strained relations between India and Canada. In a recent development, Ottawa decided to pause talks on a proposed trade treaty with India, just three months after both nations had expressed their intention to finalize an initial agreement this year.
During the G20 summit, despite holding bilateral meetings with several world leaders, Prime Minister Modi did not engage in one with Prime Minister Trudeau.
It could be recalled that the 1984 assassination of Indira Gandhi occurred when two Sikh bodyguards assassinated her following her decision to allow the storming of the holiest Sikh temple in northern India. This action was aimed at flushing out Sikh separatists who were demanding an independent homeland known as Khalistan.
Canada boasts the highest population of Sikhs outside of their home state of Punjab in India. Consequently, the country has witnessed numerous Sikh-related protests that have raised concerns in India.
In response, Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized Canada’s commitment to defending “freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and peaceful protest” during a press conference in New Delhi.
He also asserted Canada’s dedication to preventing violence and countering hatred. Trudeau underlined that the actions of a few should not be taken as representative of the entire Sikh community or of Canada as a whole.
Meanwhile, Trudeau’s departure from the G20 summit was delayed due to a technical issue with the Canadian delegation’s aircraft, as per a statement from the Prime Minister’s office.
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