New Delhi: India has told Canada that the Khalistan issue is of “national security concern” for New Delhi and that Ottawa should take stringent action against those who continue to pose threats to the Indian community there, even as both sides vowed to boost strategic ties between them under the Indo-Pacific construct, ABP Live has learnt.
The issue was raised during Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly’s hurricane trip to India during which she held one-on-one as well as delegation-level meetings with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar Tuesday, sources told ABP Live.
Joly’s visit comes months after India issued a rare- and strongly-worded travel advisory on Canada, talking about rising incidents of “hate crime” in that country and attempts to “terrorise the Indian community” thereby Khalistani extremists.
The advisory was issued in September last year when a statue of Mahatma Gandhi was vandalised at a Hindu temple in Ontario and desecrated, with the word “Khalistan” inscribed on it.
According to the sources, the tensions around Khalistani activities there has become a “major issue of concern” and it continues to be a “burning issue” even though both sides have sought to take their ties to the next level boosting their defence and security partnerships.
The Khalistan issue even threatened to jeopardise diplomatic ties last November when the Sikh separatist group – Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) – held a referendum in the Canadian city of Brampton seeking the creation of Khalistan, a separate country of the Sikh community. The SFJ is banned in India.
External Affairs Minister Jaishankar spoke about the “centrality” of people-to-people ties between India and Canada, signalling the fact that the Khalistan issue needs to be immediately tackled by the Justin Trudeau government, which has so far not taken any credible action apart from a few arrests.
‘Advancing Security Cooperation’
During the Canada-India Strategic Dialogue, which took place during Joly’s visit, both sides also discussed the roadmap to boost security cooperation between India and Canada.
“During the meeting, the Ministers discussed strengthening the economic partnership between Canada and India, advancing security cooperation, facilitating migration and mobility between the two countries, and growing our strong people-to-people ties,” said a readout by the Office of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Canada.
It also said: “The Ministers also discussed furthering Canada-India cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, following the announcement of Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy in November. Canada and India share a common vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, anchored in our shared values of democracy, pluralism, and the rule of law.”
According to Jaishankar, both “exchanged views on the global situation, in particular the Indo-Pacific and Ukraine conflict”.
“Welcomed Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy,” Jaishankar said in a tweet.
Exchanged views on the global situation, in particular the Indo-Pacific and Ukraine conflict. Welcomed Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy.
Appreciated Canadian support for our G20 Presidency that will address challenges of economic growth and development.
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) February 6, 2023
“Dr S Jaishankar and I are committed to seek new opportunities through which to engage. We will build on our people-to-people ties, commitment to a rules-based order and our desire to expand our commercial relationship. We look forward to supporting India in their G20 presidency,” tweeted Joly.
.@DrSJaishankar and I are committed to seek new opportunities through which to engage. We will build on our people-to-people ties, commitment to a rules-based order and our desire to expand our commercial relationship. We look forward to supporting India in their G20 presidency. pic.twitter.com/NtTIh3S8Ew
— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) February 6, 2023
The Canadian minister is expected to visit India again next month for the G20 Foreign Ministers Meeting in New Delhi. India is the G20 chair for this year.
Canada To Increase Naval Presence In Indo-Pacific Region
Under its Indo-Pacific strategy, Canada has said it will increase its naval presence in the region while also enhancing the participation of its armed forces in regional joint military exercises.
The first five years of the strategy include new initiatives and investments of almost $2.3 billion over five years. Out of this, $493 million will be used to reinforce its Indo-Pacific naval presence and increase Canadian Armed Forces’ participation in regional military exercises over a span of five years.
“As a Pacific nation, Canada recognizes that the Indo-Pacific region will play a significant and profound role in Canada’s future. Every issue that matters to Canadians—national security, economic prosperity, respect for international law and human rights, democratic values, public health, protecting our environment—will be shaped by the relationships that Canada, along with its partners, have with countries throughout the Indo-Pacific,” said the document.
It added, “Decisions made in the region will impact Canadians for generations, and it is critical that Canada be at the table.”