Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India was deliberately scuttled by Indian establishment through a well-orchestrated diplomatic and info-ops campaign. Despite his best efforts to show respect for Indian culture and open display of ‘clowning’ through a dress parade involving entire first family, Khalistan and Sikh haters in India were not ready to budge an inch.

India is not ready to digest a reality that Sikh diaspora in North America and Europe has made its mark through hard work and political activism of two generations, no wonder the community occupies very important place in Canadian polity and economy.

In dealing with Sikhs, Indian government is even ignoring the diplomatic norms as evident from recent visit of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. He was not greeted (or hugged by Modi) at airport. Modi didn’t even bother sending out a welcoming tweet. Indian media also adopted a snubbing posture.

While glancing through a piece by Barkha Dutt in Washington Post, titled ‘Trudeau’s India trip is a total disaster, and he has only himself to Blame’, I was shocked by the arrogance and non-diplomatic approach adopted by India.

Barkha Dutt questioned, “how did Trudeau, the world’s favorite liberal mascot - a feminist man, with movie-star good looks, a 50 percent female cabinet and a political lexicon that has replaced “mankind” with “peoplekind” (making millions swoon) - end up looking silly, diminished and desperate on his trip to India this week? Trudeau’s eight-day India expedition has been an absolute fiasco”. Other flimsy, chiffon and childish questions raised by the Indian media included; what is Trudeau doing in India for so long? Doesn’t he have a country to run?

Sunny Hundal argued in Independent on 25 Feb that Indian concern is more than just about Canada. What really worries the Indian government is the prospect of Sikhs in Britain, Canada and the US getting into positions of power and challenging the abuse of Sikh civil rights in India. The Indian government mentions the revival of Sikh militancy in India too, but it is highly exaggerated. Among Indian elites there is palpable concern that Western foreign policy towards India will increasingly be shaped by Sikhs willing to challenge its interests. Hence the alarmist talk about Sikh separatism.

Indian Newspaper ‘The Hindu’ highlighted that the red flags had gone up long before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived for an eight-day state visit to India. New Delhi had asked delegation to exclude Canadian Sikh ministers suspected of sympathizing with extremist Sikh groups, but Ottawa refused to exclude them. Indian government wanted Mr. Trudeau to meet Punjab CM Amarinder Singh as the latter had been denied a trip to Canada in 2016, Mr. Trudeau’s office did not confirm a meeting with him. India expressed dejection over appearance of Jaspal Atwal (accused of being a terrorist as per Indian definition) in reception of Mr. Trudeau.

The Business Standard talked of controversies about his Trudeau Government’s dalliance with Canadian NRI groups that are antithetical to India’s territorial integrity.

Indian establishment dealing with Sikh activism has witnessed significant alteration. On the one hand, active Sikhs entities working for Sikhs cause (like Mr Jaggi etc) are targeted through brutal police methods to make them an example for others, whereas, on the other hand, Indian deep state has been killing local Hindu leaders in Punjab through professional criminals to blame Sikh youth for the crime.

With half a million Sikhs in Britain, Canada and the US each and a fact that Canadians elected 20 Sikh MPs in 2015, the highest number ever, Indian vexation with Sikh community is increasing with time. Sikh community in Canada was able to grab seats for four Sikh cabinet ministers including Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, adding on Indian anxiety is the rise of unofficial leader of the opposition party NDP, Mr Jagmeet Singh. Two Sikh MPs were elected last year in the British Parliament, who have embraced Sikh issues with exhilaration and mirth. Although American Sikhs are a relatively small community, their voice has been heard in international forums. Flamboyant and articulate activists like Dr Amarjit Singh of TV84 and Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) advocate Mr Gurpatwant Singh Pannu are some of these leading figures. It’s merely a matter of time before American Sikhs become politically prominent too.

It is widely acknowledged that Indian elites (Hindus) have palpable concern that Western foreign policy towards India will increasingly be shaped by Sikhs willing to challenge its interests. In recent weeks, over a hundred Sikh gurdwaras in the West have explicitly banned Indian officials on government business, claiming internal interference and citing the arrest of British citizen Jagtar Singh Johal.

Sunny Hundal in The Gulf Today stated reasons for anxiety in Indian deep state as, “Indian elite sees any demand by Sikhs for justice over the anti-Sikh pogroms in 1984 as a sign of separatism. Last year Ontario’s state parliament passed a motion describing the events of 1984 as “genocide” against Sikhs. The Indian media, which largely prefers the term “riots” (as a way to continue the pretense that both Sikhs and Hindus were to blame), cited the motion as proof that Sikh separatism was growing in Canada”.

Times of India cried on 23 Feb, “representatives of Sikh organizations including heads of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee (SGPC), Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Managing Committee (DSGMC), Damdami Taksal and jathedars of five Sikh takhts, attended inauguration of a gurdwara built in the memory of former Damdami Taksal Chief Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale at his native Rode village in Moga district on 22 Feb . Gurdwara Sant Khalsa has been built by Damdami Taksal at the behest of its chief Harman Singh Dhumma at Bhindranwale’s birthplace in Rode. Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak committee president Gobind Singh Longowal said successive Union governments had been trying to suppress Sikhs”.

With Khalistan 2020 campaign kicking up in North America, Europe and Australia; nervousness in the South Block is clearly visible. Sunny Hundal hits the bull’s-eye by stating that Sikhs call for a Khalistan not because they want to live in a theocracy but because they want a state where their Sikh brethren are treated equally and with dignity. They want a state that will protect Sikhs, not cover up thousands of extrajudicial killings. Instead India is going in the opposite direction: the rise of the Hindu nationalist Hindutva movement has minorities more concerned about their safety than ever before.

The takeaways from Indian diplomatic faux pas could be summarized as :

India will become increasingly hegemonic and nasty, as her international clout grows in international arena.

Indian policy in international relations will be guided by a misplaced notion of insecurity; where Indian domestic vows and demand for freedom and respect by minority groups within India would affect bilateral relations with countries hosting Indian NRIs from minority communities.

India will be ready to diplomatically embarrass dignitaries for her domestic insecurities, even if India is at fault; this nasty policy of pressure tactics cab be at best called rudeness, incivility and impertinence.

Barkha Dutt’s article in Washington Post ended with a snooty advice “So next time you come to India, Prime Minister Trudeau, do try and leave the terrorists-and wedding kurtas-at home”. I will leave it to the judgment of worthy readers, if they can smell the arrogance and non-diplomatic language used by Indian establishment and their cohorts in the media.


The author is a freelance journalist.