Phase-II of ‘Khalistan Referendum’: India, Canada ties under stress

The Khalistan Referendum will test India-Canada diplomatic relations

By Our Correspondent
October 03, 2022
—Murtaza Ali Shah

LONDON/TORONTO: Relations between Canada and India are set to deteriorate further as the secessionist group Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) has announced plans to hold voting on Phase-II of Khalistan Referendum on November 6 in Toronto to accommodate those who were unable to vote on September 18.

The Sikhs For Justice said that more than 110,000 Sikhs had voted on September 18 in a massive turnout and thousands were unable to cast their votes as the voting was ended at 5pm and nearly 40,000 Sikhs could not be accommodated, who were in queues to cast their votes but the polling time was ended.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, an attorney at law in New York and general counsel to the SFJ, said the decision to hold Phase-II voting of Khalistan Referendum was made due to a huge demand from the local Sikh community and with the consensus from all Sikh organisations.

“The Canadian Sikhs made history on September 18 by coming out for Khalistan in a huge number and they will do it again on November 6,” the attorney added. The Khalistan Referendum will test India-Canada diplomatic relations as both countries have been engaged in open warfare since the start of the campaign in Canada.

After the first referendum in Brampton, both countries have issued travel advisories against each other, warning their respective citizens. Before the voting took place in Brampton, Ontario, India tried to put diplomatic pressure on Canada and sent three diplomatic communications to stop the non-binding voting.

The Canadian govt told India that it believed in the territorial integrity of the South Asian country but it was unable to stop its own Sikh nationals from engagingin a democratic and peaceful process. The Canadian response triggered issuing travel and safety advisories to their citizens by the both countries.

On September 23, India issued a travel advisory and a press release which read: “There has been a sharp increase in incidents of hate crimes, sectarian violence and anti-India activities in Canada. The Ministry of External Affairs and our High Commission/Consulates in Canada have taken up these incidents with the Canadian authorities and requested them to investigate and take appropriate action. The perpetrators of these crimes have not been brought to justice so far by the Canadian government.”

India’s External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India had showed serious concerns with the Canadian government over the Khalistan Referendum voting on September 18 in Brampton. In a sharp rebuke to India, the government of Justin Trudeau also issued the travel advisory exactly four days after India’s advisory on September 23 for its students that Canada had become a hub of Khalistan supporters.

PM Justin Trudeau’s government advised its citizens to avoid all travel to areas in states of Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan, which share a border with Pakistan due to the ‘presence of landmines’ and ‘unpredictable security situation.’

“Avoid all travel to areas within 10 km from the border of Pakistan in the following states, including Gujarat, Punjab and Rajasthan due to the unpredictable security situation and presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance,” the Canadian advisory stated.

The travel advisory put out by the Canadian government on its website on September 27 also asked its citizens to exercise a high degree of caution in India due to ‘threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country.’ It also urged its citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Assam and Manipur due to the ‘risk of terrorism and insurgency.’