Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau just can’t help himself: as if the major scandals he had caused during his visit to India a few years ago weren’t enough, now he’s poking his nose into India’s internal affairs in an attempt to win a few more votes at home.
And the government of India have told him they would have none of it. They could have hardly been more straightforward: “We have seen some ill-informed comments by Canadian leaders relating to farmers in India,’’ said Anurag Srivastava, India’s Foreign Ministry spokesman.
“Such comments are unwarranted, especially when pertaining to the internal affairs of a democratic country. It is also best that diplomatic conversations are not misrepresented for political purposes.’’
Basically, here’s what Anurag Srivastava told Trudeau: learn you manners, you imbecile you, and meanwhile, until and unless you’ve learnt them, keep your mouth shut.
India has adopted new farm laws, and Sikh farmers aren’t too happy about them.
There are 18 Sikhs among the 338 members of Canada’s House of Commons, and three of them have made it all the way into Trudeau’s cabinet.
Instead of adjusting themselves to Canada, the majority of the about half a million Canadian Sikhs, mostly second- or third-generation Canadian citizens, keep close ties with their old country. They also have strong influence over immigrants who come to Canada from that corner of the world.
Most of their relatives live in the state of Punjab, and most of those relatives are farmers.
Many Sikhs in the old country have wanted to separate from India and create what they called Khalistan. The idea seems to have lost a lot of its traction in its last three decades – in India. Sikhs elsewhere, and those in Canada, in particular, seem to go on embracing the plan, annoying the government in New Delhi beyond belief.
Trudeau wasted no time throwing more fuel on the fire.
“Let me remind you Canada will always be there to defend the rights of peaceful protest. We believe in the importance of dialogue,’’ he said. “We have reached out through multiple means directly to the Indian authorities to highlight our concerns.’’
As could be expected, a number of overseas Sikhs would spring into action following Trudeau’s intrepid observations: let’s support the farmers.
What happens usually in Hollywood, happened in India’s Bollywood, as well. Actors, singers and other such entertainment crowd, mostly people who wouldn’t recognize a farm if they saw one, joined the chorus.
People in North America may be used to such posturing and they view the so-called celebrities taking sundry political and economic positions askance in growing numbers. People in India will still need some time to realize that being able to move in front of a camera does not yet a genius make.
A serious issue
Sikhs also form a critical part of India’s armed and security forces, and that concerns the country’s government enormously. Besides, neighbouring Pakistan used the separatist tensions of the 1980s and early 1990s to fuel the escalation with weapons, money. It also declared its support for the creation of Khalistan.
In what used to be described as an era of terrorism, thousands of lives have been lost, including that of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
And on June 24, 1985, Canada’s terrorists of Sikh origin planted bombs on two Air India jumbo jets. One cost all of the 329 lives aboard following a crash into the sea off Cork in Ireland.
The other plane was delayed at Tokyo’s Narita airport. The aircraft would be a write-off, of course.
India at the time expressed outrage over what it described as lax security for flights to India originating from Canadian airports.
Since then, Canada’s governments have been very careful so as not to hurt India’s sensitivities.
Opportunistic vote chasers
Of course, some politicians, eager to secure Sikh votes and support, would cross what New Delhi sees as a red diplomatic line from time to time.
They are aware that Punjabi is the third most-spoken language in Canada after English and French (and long before Chinese and all other tongues spoken in the Maple Leaf country). A fifth of all Canadian Sikhs live in Surrey, British Columbia and Brampton, Ontario. There are strong pockets in Calgary, Alberta, and Abbotsford, B.C., too.
Officially, Canada states that “Canada respects the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of India and the government of Canada will not recognize the referendum.’’
And then a high school substitute teacher of drama comes in and starts behaving like a hippo in a china store.
Clowns are supposed to entertain all and sundry, not to break relationships between countries that are supposed to be friends.