India and Canada have long maintained a bilateral relationship built on shared values, including democracy, human rights, and the rule of law. However, tensions have arisen recently due to the Khalistan issue. The Khalistan movement, which emerged in the 1970s and early 1980s, advocates for the creation of a separate Sikh homeland within India. While the government had previously suppressed the movement, it has recently gained momentum, particularly among a slice of the Sikh diaspora in Canada.
In June 2023, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist leader, was fatally shot in British Columbia, Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau subsequently accused India of involvement in Nijjar’s murder, a claim India vehemently denied, dismissing it as “absurd”. These allegations have significantly strained relations between the two countries, resulting in the expulsion of diplomats from both sides and the suspension of free trade agreement negotiations.
The Khalistan issue highlights the complexity and sensitivity surrounding this matter, as well as the challenges associated with managing diaspora communities, especially those with a history of conflict with their home country’s government. It is important to note that the majority of Sikhs do not support separatism; however, a vocal and well-organised minority of Khalistan movement supporters in Canada has garnered media attention and influenced public opinion.
India is notably concerned about the support for the Khalistan movement in Canada, viewing it as a threat to its territorial integrity and national security. In light of these concerns, Frontlinehas compiled a collection of articles from its archives that offer a comprehensive understanding of the Khalistan issue and the contemporary socio-political dynamics in the State of Punjab, where the Sikhs are a majority.