Why India’s warnings about Sikh separatism don’t get much traction in the West

The current India-Canada crisis has exposed a sharp disconnect between India and the West on the issue of Sikh separatism.

Ever since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged possible Indian involvement in the June assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia, New Delhi has doubled down on a long-standing grievance: Canada is home to dangerous anti-India extremists that Ottawa refuses to curb. It is a controversial contention, and one that Ottawa has never endorsed.

In New Delhi’s view, these anti-India elements are exemplified by Nijjar, a supporter of the Khalistan movement that seeks a separate Sikh homeland in India’s Punjab state. Indian officials accuse Nijjar of heading the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), a banned violent group. New Delhi formally categorized him as a terrorist in 2020. Recently leaked Indian intelligence reports claim Nijjar funded terrorism in India and organized arms training camps in Canada.

India’s decision to issue a new travel advisory urging Indians to “exercise utmost caution” in Canada and suspend visa services for Canadians is meant to signal that with anti-India elements allegedly operating with impunity in Canada, Indians are unsafe there. (On Sunday, Canada issued its own new travel advisory that warns Canadian citizens in India to “stay vigilant and exercise caution.”) On Saturday, Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi referred to Canada’s “growing reputation as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organized crime.”

Read more: NPR