'Issue is misuse of freedom of speech, advocating violence': India on Trudeau's comment on Khalistani protests
Pro-Khalistani protests in Canada: The Canadian side has been warned by India to take action and prevent damage to its consulates or harm to its officials.
India on Thursday responded sharply to comments on 'freedom of expression' made by Canada prime minister Justin Trudeau against the backdrop of increasing pro-Khalistan activity in that country and planned protests on Saturday. Foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi stressed such freedom could not be used to instigate violence or excuse terrorist activity.
"We have seen media reports about comments by PM Trudeau… the issue is not about freedom of expression but its misuse for advocating violence, propagating separatism and legitimising terrorism," Bagchi told reporters.
What did Trudeau say?
Earlier today a video of Trudeau responding to a question - about the parade float in Brampton last month and that he may be unwilling to take action against Khalistani terrorists because he relies on Sikh votes - emerged online.
The Canadian leader called such reports 'wrong' and insisted his government 'always takes serious action against terrorism and we always will'.
"They are wrong. Canada has always taken extremely seriously violence and threats of violence. We have always taken serious action against terrorism and we always will. We have an extremely diverse country and freedom of expression is something we have… we always make sure we are pushing back against violence and extremism in all its forms," he said at a media interaction.
In his response, Trudeau also referred to foreign minister S Jaishankar's statement this week that 'radical, extremist' ideologies are 'neither good for us nor them nor our relations (with each other)'.
Trudeau's assertion came two days after India served Canada a demarche over proposed protests by pro-Khalistan terror outfits outside the Indian High Commission in Ottawa and consulates in Toronto and Vancouver on July 8.
'Driven by vote bank compulsions'
Last week Jaishankar was highly critical of the Canadian government's lack of action against Khalistani protests and said, "It is something which is a continuing conversation with Canada… not always satisfactory… but something on which we have been very clear."
Acknowledging the issue 'has impacted our ties in many ways', Jaishankar also said, "How Canada has dealt with the Khalistani issue is a longstanding issue… very frankly, they seem to be driven by vote bank politics… responses constrained by what they regard as vote bank compulsions."
India demarches Canada
On Tuesday the Narendra Modi government formally warned Canada of planned pro-Khalistan activities to take place this week on its soil and requested strong measures to prevent protesters from breaking into or vandalising its missions and consulates or desecrating the Indian flag.
This comes after shocking scenes this week from the Indian consulate in San Francisco in the US, which was targeted for a second time in less than three months; a part of the building was set on fire as 'revenge' for the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June.
The US government reacted swiftly, calling it a 'criminal offence' and ordering a full investigation.
'Unacceptable', says Canada
The Canadian government has said the proposed multi-city Khalistani rally in that country is 'unacceptable' and that the safety of Indian diplomats and officials is its priority.
Foreign minister Melanie Joly tweeted: "Canada takes its obligations under Vienna Conventions regarding the safety of diplomats very seriously."
"Canada remains in close contact with Indian officials in light of some of the promotional material circulating online regarding a protest planned for July 8th, which are unacceptable."
'Kill India' posters
Threat perception levels for Indian missions and envoys in Canada escalated dramatically after reports that posters with violent imagery and the words 'Kill India' were spotted in some places in Canada.
These posters had the photographs of India's High Commissioner to Ottawa and Consul Generals to Toronto and Vancouver.
UK slams attacks on Indian missions
Meanwhile, the UK's foreign secretary, James Cleverly, said today that any attacks on Indian missions in his country are 'completely unacceptable'.
"… direct attacks on the Indian High Commission in London are completely unacceptable. We have made clear to… the Government of India that the safety of staff at the High Commission is paramount," Cleverly tweeted.
- What happened in Brampton, Canada?
At a parade in Brampton - which the highest Sikh population of any urban area in that country - there was a float depicting the killing of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. The parade was allegedly organised by Khalistani supporters and took place days before the 39th anniversary of ‘Operation Bluestar’.
There was also a sign saying the killing was 'revenge'.
Khalistan radicals in Brampton recreate Indira Gandhi's murder
2. What did Canada say?
The office of the Mayor of Brampton, Patrick Brown, said the float 'does not constitute a hate crime'. It was, however, condemned by Canada's High Commissioner in India, Cameron McKay, who said he was 'appalled' and that 'there is no place in Canada for hate or glorification of violence'.
3. What did India say?
The Indian High Commission expressed displeasure to the Canadian foreign ministry and said the gift of freedom of expression could not be abused.
With input from agencies