Justifiably, India and Sri Lanka are unhappy that the Canadian government is giving the freedom to operate to separatist movements in Canada and is keeping its eyes and ears closed to the violent objectives of the separatists.
It is evident that a large majority of the people living in India and Canada are highly concerned about the ongoing diplomatic friction between India and Canada and want the traditionally good relationship between both countries to be restored as early as possible.
While it serves no purpose at this stage to discuss who is responsible for developing such friction between these two democratic countries, many people in India and Canada think that Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau may have acted and spoken somewhat carelessly, attributing the death of a Sikh political leader in Canada to the machination of the Indian government. He has said this without adequate proof and that too in Canadian parliament. This statement has naturally irked India, as it would spoil the reputation of the country around the world.
After this, one event followed another with Trudeau staying firm in his views. In the process, he has done enormous damage to the relationship with India and the Indian government too seems to have overreacted to the accusation.
The fact that many people in Canada too are unhappy about the state of affairs became evident when Canada’s opposition leader said that he would work to restore a “professional relationship” with India if his party were to come to office in the next elections in Canada. The question now is how to restore the relations between both countries to the traditional level.
Migrant population with twin loyalties
During the last several decades, Canada has been welcoming the migrant population liberally and has been providing citizenship to migrants from all over the world, probably without adequate checks and control from the point of view of national security. In the process, Canada has a mixed population from various countries who have become citizens and belong to different religions including Christians, and Muslims. Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists and so on. Further, it appears that some of these migrant-turned-citizens have twin loyalties in their mindset to Canada as well as the country from which they have migrated.
With such a large influx of migrants over the years and with an almost unchecked level of freedom given to the people in Canada, some of the migrants have been tempted to organise movements from Canadian soil to “fight “ for a separate state for a particular group in their original country. An immediate example is the LTTE movement freely operating in Canada to split Sri Lanka and the Khalistan movement freely operating in Canada to split India.
Justifiably, India and Sri Lanka are unhappy that the Canadian government is giving the freedom to operate to separatist movements in Canada and is keeping its eyes and ears closed to the violent objectives of the separatists. Probably, a few other countries too are unhappy with Canada for allowing separatist movements on its soil threatening the territorial integrity of those countries.
In the process of massive migration of people from different countries with varied traditional and cultural standards and value systems, the demographic structure of Canada is constantly changing with the migrant population getting considerable space in the Canadian parliament and government. In the process, the political and electoral power of such migrants has also become strong, influencing Canadian politics.
Probably, Trudeau feels that keeping the migrant Sikh population supporting the Khalistan movement in good humour would help him politically and hence made such a statement against India. The twin loyalties of a section of the Canadian population became evident when the recent visit of Trudeau to a mosque in Canada was reportedly objected to by a section of Muslims living in Canada.
Obviously, Trudeau cannot afford now to backtrack since it would amount to eating his own words. However, there is concern in Canada that the country can suffer due to such short-sighted policies as the large student population from India going for higher education to Canada may start looking elsewhere. There could be a loss of business opportunities for Canada just as it is for India too
What should be done now is that the spokespersons from both countries should remain silent for some time so that the dust settles down and saner voices can be heard from both countries.
(The author is a commentator on current affairs and a Trustee, NGO Nandini Voice for the Deprived, Chennai. Views are personal. He can be contacted at [email protected])