With historical and political undertones in both the Indian and Canadian settings, the Khalistan problem is a delicate and complicated subject. A projected autonomous Sikh state in the Indian state of Punjab is referred to as Khalistan. An outline of the issue’s significance in Indian-Canadian politics is provided below:

  1. Sikh Diaspora in Canada: The majority of the Sikh community in Canada is made up of immigrants’ descendants who came throughout the 20th century. Some Sikhs in Canada have taken a keen interest in the Khalistan issue and have become outspoken supporters of it.
  2. Support for Khalistan: A few Sikh Canadians have come out in favour of the formation of Khalistan as a homeland for Sikhs. Opinions on the matter differ, therefore the Sikh community in Canada does not share this support universally.
  3. Political Influence: Sikh Canadians are running for office and are becoming more and more active in Canadian politics. Owing to the candidatures of a few Sikh-Canadian MPs, discussions over the Khalistan issue have arisen in the Canadian political sphere.
  4. Effect on Indian-Canadian Relations: There have been moments when tensions between India and Canada have arisen because of the Khalistan question. The Indian government has called on the Canadian government to address the issue of Canadian parliamentarians’ support for Khalistan.
  5. Fears of Terrorism: In the past, India has charged several Sikh separatist organisations with terrorism. Concerns about possible radicalization and sympathy for these groups within the Sikh Canadian community have arisen as a result.
  6. A fine balance must be struck by the Canadian government when handling its connections with India and the worries of the Sikh population. Canada aspires to preserve robust diplomatic and economic connections with India while upholding the rights and aspirations of its heterogeneous populace.
  7. The position of the Canadian government is that it has acknowledged the variety of its people but has taken care to avoid providing the Khalistan movement with any endorsement or backing. 

The goal of the Khalistan movement is to establish a distinct Sikh nation inside India. The 1970s and early 1980s saw the emergence of the movement. Although the movement has previously been prohibited by the Indian government, it has lately acquired traction, especially among a portion of the Sikh diaspora in Canada. 

The Indian government charged Canadians who support Khalistan with: Defacing Hindu temples with graffiti that is deemed to be “anti-Indian.”

Attacking the Indian High Commission’s Ottawa buildings in March during a protest

In 2023, there was a boom in the Khalistan movement’s operations in Canada. Supporters of Khalistan in the West have aggressively campaigned against India, where the Sikh community is politically significant. Additionally, they have asked for money for terrorist organisations in Khalistan, usually through unofficial hawala networks.

All 329 persons on board Air India Flight 182 perished when a bomb detonated aboard the aircraft in 1985 over the Atlantic Ocean. According to an inquiry into the explosion, Sikh fighters stationed in Canada planned the attack as payback for the Golden Temple operation.

Canada is alleged by the Indian government to be providing sanctuary to “extremists and terrorists from Khalistani.” The Canadian government’s delay on this issue, according to the Indian government, has long been a source of worry.

It’s crucial to remember that the complicated relationship between India and Canada is made up of many moving parts, of which the Khalistan problem is only one. This is a topic of continuous discussion and controversy in both Canada and Sikh Canada, with differing opinions and viewpoints held by both groups.

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