Foreign Policy Watch: India-Canada

Khalistani Movement in Canada


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: NA

Mains level: pro-Khalistani events and glorification of violence in Canada and its impact on bilateral relations


Central Idea

  • The recent pro-Khalistani parade in Brampton, Canada, featuring a tableau depicting the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, has raised concerns about the glorification of violence and its impact on Indo-Canadian relations.

The Offensive Float: Glorifying Violence

  • Depiction of Indira Gandhi: The float featured a tableau depicting a lady dressed in a white sari, symbolizing India’s former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The portrayal of her in a bloodied state aimed to evoke a sense of violence and brutality.
  • Soldiers Training Guns: The tableau included two soldiers pointing their guns at the depicted figure of Indira Gandhi. This imagery conveys a message of aggression and threat towards a political leader.
  • Board Text: The float had a board behind the figure of Indira Gandhi, reading “Revenge of attack on Shri Darbar Sahib.” This text suggests a desire for revenge for the attack on the Golden Temple (Shri Darbar Sahib) and implies a justification for violence.
  • “Never forget 1984”: The side of the float carried the words “Never forget 1984.” This phrase refers to the anti-Sikh riots that took place in 1984 following Indira Gandhi’s assassination, further emphasizing the glorification of a violent event in history.

Indian Response

  • External Affairs Minister’s Comments: During a media conference on June 8, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar indirectly addressed the offensive float. While he did not directly mention the incident, he referred to the larger issue of Canada providing space to separatists, extremists, and those advocating violence. He emphasized that such a stance is detrimental to the bilateral relationship between India and Canada.
  • Condemning Hypocrisy: Jaishankar criticized Canada’s hypocritical approaches to human rights issues and its historical disregard for India’s territorial integrity. He pointed out the need for Canada to reassess its policies and give due consideration to the impact of its actions on the relationship between the two nations.
  • Omission of Direct Mention: Although Mr. Jaishankar spoke out against the offensive float and Canada’s permissive environment for separatists, it is notable that he did not directly mention the name of the former Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi.
  • Canadian High Commissioner’s Statement: While Mr. Jaishankar refrained from naming Indira Gandhi, the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Cameron Mackay, explicitly denounced the event through a tweet. He expressed his appallment at reports of an event in Canada that celebrated the assassination of the late Indian Prime Minister.

Concerns about the glorification of violence

  • Promotion of Hatred and Conflict: Glorifying violence perpetuates a culture of animosity, division, and hatred. It can fuel tensions between different communities or groups, leading to further conflicts and hostility.
  • Erosion of Social Cohesion: The glorification of violence undermines social cohesion and harmony within societies. It deepens divisions, exacerbates grievances, and creates an environment conducive to violence and social unrest.
  • Undermining Rule of Law: Glorifying violence goes against the principles of the rule of law and peaceful resolution of conflicts. It encourages a mindset that justifies resorting to violence as a means to address grievances, disregarding established legal frameworks and peaceful mechanisms for dispute resolution.
  • Impact on National Identity: The glorification of violence can tarnish the image and identity of a nation. It reinforces negative stereotypes, perpetuates cycles of violence, and can lead to emotional distress for individuals or communities associated with the affected events.
  • Impediment to Reconciliation: Glorifying violence hampers efforts towards reconciliation and healing. It deepens wounds from past conflicts, making it harder to foster understanding and dialogue between different groups or communities.
  • Strained International Relations: The glorification of violence can strain relations between countries, particularly when it involves controversial historical events or political figures. It can lead to diplomatic tensions, a breakdown of trust, and hinder cooperation and collaboration in various domains

Implications for Indo-Canadian relations

  • Diplomatic Strains: The incident can strain bilateral relations between India and Canada. The portrayal of violence and the glorification of a historical event that caused significant pain and turmoil within India can lead to a breakdown of trust and cooperation between the two countries.
  • Perception of Insensitivity: If Canada is perceived as not taking appropriate action to address and condemn the glorification of violence, it may be viewed as insensitive to India’s concerns. This perception can damage the mutual understanding and goodwill that are essential for fostering strong bilateral relations.
  • Impact on People-to-People Connections: The glorification of violence can negatively affect people-to-people connections between India and Canada. It may deepen divisions and breed resentment among different communities, hindering social cohesion and understanding.
  • Economic and Trade Consequences: In extreme cases, if tensions escalate due to incidents like the offensive float, it can have economic and trade consequences. Trade and investment flows may be affected, hampering economic cooperation and growth between the two nations.
  • Cultural Exchanges and Cooperation: Glorifying violence can hamper cultural exchanges and cooperation between India and Canada. It may discourage collaborations in areas such as education, arts, tourism, and other forms of cultural exchange, limiting opportunities for mutual understanding and appreciation of each other’s cultures.


Way forward

  • Dialogue and Diplomacy: Both countries should engage in open and constructive dialogue at various levels, including government officials, diplomats, and civil society organizations. This dialogue should aim to address concerns, clarify misunderstandings, and find common ground for cooperation.
  • Condemnation of Violence: It is important for both India and Canada to unequivocally condemn the glorification of violence and any acts that undermine peace, harmony, and social cohesion. Clear statements from government officials and community leaders can send a strong message against violence and promote a culture of non-violence.
  • Cultural Exchanges and Understanding: Encouraging cultural exchanges, educational programs, and people-to-people interactions can foster greater understanding and appreciation between the two nations. Efforts should be made to showcase the rich cultural diversity of both countries and emphasize shared values of respect, tolerance, and harmony.
  • Enhanced Cooperation: Exploring opportunities for enhanced cooperation in various fields, including trade, investment, technology, and research, can strengthen the bilateral relationship. Collaborative projects, joint initiatives, and mutually beneficial partnerships can foster closer ties and promote shared prosperity.
  • Promoting Mutual Respect: It is crucial to uphold the principles of mutual respect, sovereignty, and territorial integrity in bilateral relations. Both countries should demonstrate respect for each other’s historical narratives, sensitivities, and concerns, while working towards resolving differences through peaceful and diplomatic means.
  • Engagement with the Indian Diaspora: Canada should ensure that its policies and actions do not provide support or platforms for separatist or extremist elements. Engaging positively with the Indian diaspora in Canada, which includes Sikhs and other communities, can help build bridges and promote a better understanding of India’s diverse perspectives.


  • While the Brampton parade highlights the need for Canada to address its hypocritical stance on separatism and violence, and for India to navigate its engagement with the diaspora sensitively. Both countries must strive to strengthen their relationship while respecting each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Also read:

Can Canada and India reset their Bilateral Relations?


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