Indian minister says Canada is his country's 'biggest problem' regarding Sikh separatism

India’s external affairs minister claims that Ottawa is allowing criminal elements to operate in Canada and collaborate with Sikh separatist factions before Prime Minister Trudeau named India as a suspect in the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Indian minister says Canada is his country's 'biggest problem' regarding Sikh separatism
Alexander Nemenov/Pool Photo via AP
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India's minister of external affairs accused Canada of welcoming criminals within its border and called Canada his "biggest problem" when it comes to Sikh separatism.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, who serves as a minister in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, said Canada was welcoming of criminals when he was asked for his reaction to developments related to the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Nijjar was murdered in June of last year after leaving a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia.

The aftermath of his death ignited a surge of protests and rallies targeting Indian diplomats in Canada, notably following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of New Delhi's involvement in the homicide.

Jaishankar asserts that the protests in Canada have exceeded the bounds of free speech. In response to the recent arrest, he reiterated claims that Ottawa permits Indian criminals to immigrate to Canada.

He also alleged that Canada was allowing politicians within its system calling for the creation of a separate Sikh homeland to be empowered.

“It's not so much a problem in the U.S.; our biggest problem right now is in Canada,” Jaishankar said, noting that it was not just the Liberals who “have given these kinds of extremism, separatism, advocates of violence a certain legitimacy, in the name of free speech.”

“I tell the foreign minister (Melanie Joly) saying, 'Suppose it happened to you. if it was your diplomat, your embassy, your flag, how would you react?' So, we have to keep our position strong,” he continued.

Jaishankar restated his ministry's assertion that Ottawa is permitting criminal elements to function in Canada and associate with Sikh separatist groups.

“Somebody may have been arrested; the police may have done some investigation. But the fact is (a) number of gangland people, (a) number of people with organized crime links from Punjab, have been made welcome in Canada,” he said, “These are wanted criminals from India, you have given them visas ... and yet you allow them to live there.”

New Delhi raised concerns about Sikh separatism prior to Trudeau's announcement that India was a suspect in the death of Nijjar. In a summary of Trudeau's meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jaishankar's ministry called out “the nexus of (Khalistan separatism) forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking.”

However, Ottawa has consistently maintained that India has not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate its accusations of terrorism under Canada's Criminal Code.

Jaishankar also said that there would be "pushback" to calls for Khalistan separation.

“It's no longer a world which runs as a one-way street,” he said. “There will be a reaction; others will take steps or counter it.”

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