Tableau on Indira Gandhi’s Killing: Jaishankar Slams Canada for 'Giving Space' to Khalistan Separatists

The external affairs minister said he was "perplexed" by the Canadian national security adviser's comments that India is "among the top sources of foreign interference in Canada".

New Delhi: Khalistan groups continue to be a thorn in Indo-Canadian relations, with Indian foreign minister S. Jaishankar criticising the North American country on Thursday, June 8, for continuing to give space for “separatists, extremists and people who advocate violence”.

Jaishankar said he was “perplexed” by the Canadian national security adviser Jody Thomas’ comments that India is “among the top sources of foreign interference in Canada”. The external affairs minister said after he heard the statement, he was reminded of the Hindi phrase “ulta chor kotwal ko daante“, which is a variation of the idiom, “the pot calling the kettle black”.

“If anybody has a complaint, we have a complaint about Canada. What I said earlier, the space they are giving to Khalistanis and violent extremists,” he said.

He also criticised the tableau that was part of a parade in Brampton City of Ontario province which celebrated Indira Gandhi’s assassination. He said the “egregious incident” highlighted a larger issue, which was the space given in Canada to Khalistan groups, separatists, extremists and people who advocate violence.

“Frankly, we are at a loss to understand other than the requirements of vote bank politics why anybody would do this [give space to such groups],” the external affairs minister said.

“I think this is not good for the relationship [with India], it’s not good for Canada,” he added.

“If you look at their history, you would imagine that they would learn their history and they wouldn’t like to repeat that history,” Jaishankar said.

At a parade on June 4 in Brampton, a city in Ontario, the tableau depicted Indira Gandhi in a blood-stained white saree, while turban-clad men point guns at her. A poster reads: “Revenge for attack on Shri Darbar Sahib”, a reference to the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian security forces in 1982 at the former prime minister’s behest to kill Khalistani leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. She was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

The Canadian high commissioner to India Cameron MacKay also criticised the tableau on Thursday. He said he was appalled by the event. “There is no place in Canada for hate or for the glorification of violence. I categorically condemn these activities,” he tweeted.

Canadian NSA’s statement

While India has long protested about the support for Khalistan – the demand for a separate state for the Sikhs – among diaspora groups in countries like Canada and the UK, the Canadian NSA recently accused India of interfering in her country’s internal matters.

“When I talk about foreign interference and economic security, I’m now talking about a number of state actors and non-state proxies,” Jody Thomas said on June 2, according to Toronto Star. “This includes Russia, Iran, India. That said, the actor that comes up most on these issues, and it’s no surprise to anybody, is China.”

According to the newspaper, the Canadian government has largely limited accusations of “foreign interference” to authoritarian states. University of British Columbia professor Vina Nadjibulla told Toronto Star it was “striking” that Thomas listed India along with the other three countries.

The report added that Canadian federal agencies “have indirectly warned in recent years of India exerting improper influence in Canada, but rarely by name and almost always in internal documents”.