Sikh separatism finds prominent mention in Trudeau-Modi meet

Khalistan was the prominent issue during the discussions, evidenced by Prime Minister Modi’s remarks after the meeting, and the space it enjoys in the joint statement.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2018 21:22 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Sikh separatism,Justin Trudeau,Khalistan
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau during their joint press conference at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

The day began with a hug between the prime ministers of India and Canada and as it proceeded, it appeared that Justin Trudeau may have embraced India’s concerns on the use of Canadian territory for staging Sikh separatism.

A senior Indian official described the talks as “very candid”. “Canada has gone further than it has ever gone before,” he said, in the context of addressing the festering division on pro-Khalistan elements making Canada a base for their activities.

“Superb joint statement and the Framework,” an official said, referring to the document released together by the two governments and also the Framework for Cooperation between India and Canada on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism.

While the Framework is built upon work done between the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and that of Trudeau’s predecessor Stephen Harper, it has elevated it from a dialogue between the national security establishments to one that will be led by each nation’s national security advisors.

Khalistan was the prominent issue during the discussions, evidenced by Prime Minister Modi’s remarks after the meeting, and the space it enjoys in the joint statement.

Vishnu Prakash, former high commissioner to India to Ottawa, described the Framework as “categorical and unambiguous”. Among the major developments was the “equation” of Khalistani groups like Babbar Khalsa International and International Sikh Youth Federation with global terror outfits like Al Qaida, ISIS, Lashkar-eToiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

“It’s encouraging, a step in the right direction,” Prakash said, but he pointed out that a “lot will depend on how it will translate on the ground.”

At the very least, the cloud hanging over the Trudeau visit due to the perceived weakness of his government on the Sikh separatist issue due to domestic political compulsions, will lift somewhat with this pair of positive documents that will form the material to develop the relationship further.

“There’s a whole lot of good stuff,” the Indian official said, and New Delhi will garner some satisfaction that playing hardball has been beneficial.

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 21:21 IST