From Allies to Adversaries:  How India’s Killing of a Sikh Canadian Will Endanger Us All

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The India-sponsored assassination in Canada of Canadian citizen and Sikh leader Nijjar is the latest incident in the deteriorating relationship between the Modi government and one of India’s once strongest Western allies.  I think it’s helpful to understand more about the relationship between these two countries and the dangerous situation that India is creating for Canada and the world.

For almost 200 years, these two countries worked together.  During World War I, Canada sent over 100,000 troops to fight in India, and during World War II, Canada provided financial, material, and military assistance to India.  When India gained independence from the UK in 1947, Canada was one of the first countries to recognize India’s independence.  Since the Cold War, Canada has become one of India’s largest trading partners, and Canada encouraged many Indians, including Sikhs, to immigrate to Canada.  With over a million people of South Asian origin living in Canada, Canada has become one of the world’s largest Indian diasporas.

In the last few decades, the issue of Sikh separatism started affecting Canada and creating more tension between Canada and India.  During the early 1980s, the Indian government cracked down on Sikh militants in Punjab, leading to a wave of Sikh refugees fleeing to Canada.  In 1985, Sikh separatists bombed an Air India flight from Montreal to New Delhi, killing all 329 people on board, the deadliest act of terrorism in Canadian history.  And while the Canadian government has attempted to monitor and mitigate Sikh separatist activity in Canada, the Indian government has accused Canada of not doing enough and harboring Sikh terrorists.  In 2014 when Modi became India’s Prime Minister, he made it clear that having a separate Sikh state would never be acceptable and that anyone who entertained Sikh nationalism would be an enemy of his administration.  In 2018, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau sympathetically met with the family of a Sikh separatist leader who had been killed in India, the Modi-led Indian government accused Canada of interfering in India’s internal affairs.  

When Nijjar was killed in British Columbia in June 2023, Trudeau told lawmakers that Canadian intelligence confirmed that “agents of the government of India” had been linked to Nijjar’s killing.  Trudeau rightfully proclaimed that “any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”  Trudeau spoke directly to Modi about this matter, and Modi denied any involvement.  Canada expelled an Indian diplomat, who Canada’s foreign minister described as the de facto head of India’s intelligence agency in Canada, and India responded by expelling a Canadian diplomat and suspending visa applications by Canadian nationals.

The investigation is supposedly ongoing, but much of the evidence and many of the answers are already out in the open.  It’s no secret that Modi is a bully and autocrat and that his administration has targeted anyone, anywhere promoting a Sikh state.  His government declared Nijjar a terrorist in 2020, decades after he left India.  Nijjar is a plumber, father of two sons, and president of a Sikh temple, who has only self-proclaimed himself as a “Sikh nationalist who believes in and supports Sikhs’ right to self-determination and independence of Indian-occupied Punjab through a future referendum.”  His interests were in rallying votes for a referendum in Canada supporting the establishment of an independent state, not in plotting for a violent attack in India, as claimed without any evidence by the Indian government.  Even the New York Times, in its own investigation, found that most Indians in Punjab had never even heard of Nijjar or his movement.  It is Modi’s personal agenda to eliminate anyone challenging Indian supremacy and nationalism.

India has not only publicly accused Canada of being too lax with Sikh separatists.  India has also accused the U.S., Britain, and Australia of passively allowing Sikhs to voice their interests in allowing Sikhs in India to have a say in whether they should be their own country.  And no one should be surprised that India, which has put journalists, demonstrators, and any outspoken citizen in jail for opposing the extreme Modi regime, which lacks the freedom of speech that is allowed in other democracies.

I have really tried looking at the facts and circumstances around India’s killing of Nijjar objectively.  And all of the respected news outlets have independently verified and stated the same thing:  That Modi’s increasingly autocratic Indian government has a vendetta against Sikhs wanting independence, and that India is even ignoring the sovereignty rights of respected countries like Canada to get what its leader Modi wants.  I’m incensed about an Indian-born Canadian citizen, working as a plumber, as a father and husband, and as a religious leader,  minding his business and speaking his mind, being gunned down by six men in two cars on the other side of the world.  Just because of his own love for his Sikh people and wanting them to have their own self-governed home.  

It’s deeply disturbing that India continues to trounce on its citizens and now oversteps its own boundaries to attack citizens of Canada.  No nation could expect to tolerate that, and Canada’s membership in the Five Eyes Alliance, created for multiple countries to share intelligence on threats such as India’s international actions, suggests a deepening concern for India’s lawlessness.  It is long past time for Canada and the world to hold India accountable for its actions violating international law and to contain a growing global threat to the security of established nations and people everywhere.  

I hope you will look into the facts yourself and encourage others to take a critical look at India’s actions and condemn India for creating a diplomatic and humanitarian crisis.  Only the global community, united in outrage, can create the kind of support needed for its political leaders to stand up defiantly against an increasingly threatening India.  Please discuss this danger with your friends, spread the word on social media, write to your politicians, and be vigilant for truth.

Edward Phillip Stevenson

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