External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Thursday warned that bilateral relations could be impacted by the space given in various countries “to extremists, to people who advocate violence”.
He was answering a question about Khalistani groups organising a procession in Brampton, Canada, with a float that recreated the assassination of then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi while marking the 39th anniversary of Operation Bluestar last weekend.
“It isn’t only one incident, however egregious it may be,” Jaishankar told a news conference. “I think there is a larger underlying issue about the space which is given to separatists, to extremists, to people who advocate violence. I think it’s not good for the relationship, I think it’s not good for Canada.”
India’s earlier protests to Canada over Khalistan-related activities, including a referendum, had failed to yield results. Jaishankar expressed a degree of exasperation at this.
Jaishankar said India was at a loss to understand why Ottawa continuously gave space to such elements “other than the requirements of vote-bank politics”.
To another question on similar activities in other countries, Jaishankar made it clear that India held the same position on any government providing space to Khalistanis, whether it was the US, UK or Australia.
During his recent US visit, Congress leader Rahul Gandhi was heckled by Khalistani supporters at a meeting in San Francisco.
“Our point is that they are a very small minority. We do not believe that they represent any significant body of opinion,” Jaishankar said.
“Our plea to these governments is: please understand, these are marginal elements. They are extremist elements. They are not good for you, they are not good for us. They are not good for the relationship.”
All four countries take the plea that as long as these demonstrations are conducted peacefully, they cannot be stopped in a democracy — that it is a freedom-of-expression issue.
In Canada, the Justin Trudeau government is propped up by the New Democratic Party, led by Jagmeet Singh who is perceived to be a Khalistan sympathiser.
As for Australia, where there have been instances of vandalism, some action was taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took up the issue during his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese’s India visit earlier this year.