Khalsa Day celebration in Toronto in April 2011. CC BY 2.0 - Photo: 2023

India-Canada Row Exposes Double Standards in Fighting Terrorism

Viewpoint by Kalinga Seneviratne*

SINGAPORE. 23 September 2023 (IDN) — After returning from the G20 meeting on 9-10 September in New Delhi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a bombshell announcement in the Canadian parliament alleging that there was evidence to suggest India’s involvement in the assassination of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June in Canada, whom India has designated as a terrorist threatening Indian sovereignty. This allegation has infuriated the Indian media and the government.

If it’s an affront to Canada’s sovereignty that the Indian government has organized an assassination of a terror suspect inside Canada, then what about the US government’s assassination of Osama Bin Laden inside Pakistani territory and numerous drone strikes, particularly by Canada’s allies US and Israel, that have killed terror suspects around the world?

Nadia Sarwar, a Research Fellow at the Institute of Strategic Studies in Islamabad, in a paper written a decade ago pointed out that the US and its NATO allies were attacking suspected Taliban and Al-Qaeda hideouts in Pakistan, arguing that under international law, the US and the coalition forces can act in self-defense if other countries are unwilling or unable to crack down on militants living within their borders.

She pointed out that the US has used Article 51 of the UN Charter, which allows countries to use military force in another country in self-defense. Western allies in their war on Islamic terrorism—to go after non-state actors they believe are plotting from abroad to mount attacks inside their countries—have used this argument repeatedly.

If what Canada alleges is true, then why cannot India use the same argument to assassinate a terror suspect who has openly advocated terror attacks on the Indian state and its leaders from Canadian soil?

After a frosty meeting with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi, when Trudeau confronted the Indian media, he was asked why terrorists can roam freely in his country—threatening Indian leaders and threatening to Balkanize India.

“Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, freedom of peaceful protest that’s extremely important to us,” he said, adding, “At the same time, we’re always there to prevent violence”.

Firstpost TV anchor Palki Sharma said in responding to Trudeau’s comments: “It holds no water; in this case, attacking Indian diplomats is not freedom of expression, threatening to assassinate the Indian prime minister is not freedom of expression. Khalistanis bombed an airplane, for God’s sake. They carried out the worst terror attack on Canadian soil. They took more than 300 lives. Would Prime Minister Justin Trudeau call it freedom of expression?”

She was referring to the Air India flight from Montreal to London that was blown up by Khalistani terrorists in 1985 over Ireland and killed all 329 passengers and crew on board, making it the worst air disaster in Canada’s history. Later, it was found the mastermind behind the bombing was Khalistani terrorist Talwinder Singh Parmar who had made Canada his base.

In a commentary, India’s Hindustan Times said that Khalistani activists have been active in Canada for 45 years. Thousands have come as asylum seekers in the 1980s at the height of the Indian army’s repression of the Khalistani movement in Punjab following the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

The Khalistani movement was crushed in the early 1990s in India, but it survived in Canada, mainly via some gurdwaras (Sikh temples) controlled by radicals. Indian diplomats have been attacked or threatened in Canada, the UK, the US, and Australia recently.

With over 770,000 Sikhs, constituting approximately 2 percent of Canada’s total population, the Sikh community holds significant political influence in Canada, boasting 18 Sikh MPs in the Canadian parliament in 2019, surpassing the 13 Sikh MPs in India.

Deepak Bhadana, producer of the documentary ‘Khalistan Reborn?” speaking on India’s News9 Live, said that when peace was restored in Punjab in the 1990s, many radical Sikh elements fled to Pakistan and Western countries like Canada. “They go as political refugees; they claim that they’ve been persecuted here and Western Nations for once were gullible,” he notes. “Today they’re paying the price” because the people who went there with their ideologies “they never really gave up that mindset”.

Harbouring Tamil terrorists

While the Khalistan issue is discussed, it is also important to note how Sri Lanka has complained for years—during the 30-year civil war with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE)—that Canada is harbouring Tamil terrorists.

In 2004, at the height of the civil war in Sri Lanka, US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that the Tamil diaspora in Canada is a significant source of funding for the LTTE terrorists, and they estimated that Canadian Tamils were providing $ 1–2 million each month to LTTE front organizations.

After extensive interviews with Sri Lankan Tamil diaspora in Canada, HRW said that LTTE has successfully gotten their cadres into Canada as asylum seekers, and they were collecting money, sometimes threatening Canadian Tamils that their relatives back home will be harmed if they don’t contribute.

Sri Lankan government has consistently claimed that Toronto was a nerve center of the LTTE terror funding network, including Oslo, Paris, London, and New York. HRW confirmed that when the civil war intensified in Sri Lanka in 2005, LTTE fundraising efforts intensified in Toronto.

LTTE was crushed by the military in Sri Lanka in 2009, but after last year’s turmoil in Colombo, there are signs that it is also reviving from its overseas bases. LTTE mouthpiece Tamil Guardian reported in April 2022 that Canadian conservative leadership candidate Patrick Brown has pledged to get LTTE delisted as a terrorist organization if they are elected to power at the next election. LTTE was declared a terrorist organization in Canada in 2006.

The West wants other countries to crack down on Islamic terrorist groups threatening Western countries. Still, they use the excuse of “freedom of expression” regarding groups threatening non-Western countries from Western soil. The India-Canada row is exposing this hypocrisy.

Canada says they have “credible” evidence about the involvement of Indian government agents in the murder of Nijjar, and this evidence was gathered with the help of US intelligence services. When the US and UK, along with Canada and NATO, invaded Iraq in 2003, they made us believe that there was “credible” evidence of Saddam Hussein having “weapons of mass destruction”. The world now knows what the word “credible” means when uttered by the so-called “five eyes” intelligence services of the Anglo-Saxon countries.

Unfortunately, driven by Western hypocrisy and lies, human rights have become weaponized, and human traffickers have created an asylum seeker industry. Human rights have lost its credibility.

* Dr. Kalinga Seneviratne is a Sri Lanka-born journalist and international communication specialist. [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: Khalsa Day celebration in Toronto in April 2011. CC BY 2.0

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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