G20: Modi ‘attacks’ Justin Trudeau over pro-Khalistan protests in Canada

[1/2] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention centre for the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.—Reuters
[1/2] Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomes Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau upon his arrival at Bharat Mandapam convention centre for the G20 Summit, in New Delhi, India, Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023.—Reuters 
  • Protests promote secessionism, violence, says India.
  • India-Canada relations strained because of protests.
  • Modi did not hold one-on-one meeting with Trudeau.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi Monday raised significant concerns regarding Sikh protests in Canada during a conversation with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, a statement from the Indian government said.

New Delhi has been sensitive to protests in Canada, particularly those related to Sikh issues. In June, India criticised Canada for permitting a parade float that depicted the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, which was perceived as glorifying violence by Sikh separatists.

The Indian statement highlighted its concerns, stating that such protests in Canada were “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship.”

Relations between India and Canada have been strained, with Ottawa recently suspending talks on a proposed trade agreement with India, just three months after both nations expressed their intent to finalise an initial agreement this year. 

Notably, Prime Minister Modi held bilateral meetings with numerous world leaders at the G20 summit, but no such meeting occurred with Prime Minister Trudeau.

The assassination of Indira Gandhi in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards, following her authorisation of the storming of the holiest Sikh temple in northern India, aimed at eliminating Sikh separatists advocating for an independent homeland known as Khalistan.

Canada hosts the largest Sikh population outside of Punjab, India, and has been a hub for protests that have caused tensions with India.

Prime Minister Trudeau asserted Canada’s commitment to “freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and peaceful protest” during a press conference in New Delhi. He also emphasised Canada’s stance against violence and hatred, clarifying that the actions of a few individuals do not represent the entire Sikh community in Canada or the nation as a whole.

In an unrelated development, Trudeau’s departure from the G20 summit faced a delay due to a technical issue with the Canadian delegation’s aircraft, as confirmed by a statement from the Prime Minister’s office. The delegation will remain in India until alternative arrangements are made.

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