India praised Canada for disavowing the Punjab Referendum 2020 organised by the secessionist group Sikhs for Justice or SFJ. India believes that in clearly disavowing the referendum the Canadian Government has set a precedent that should be emulated by other countries, particularly in the West.
“Canada taking a lead is good start,” a senior official told the Hindustan Times, adding that the position was that this stand now “put pressure” on others to follow suit.
A spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, the country’s Foreign Ministry, stated in an email that “Canada respects the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of India, and the Government of Canada will not recognize the referendum.”
Following this statement from Ottawa, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had also voiced the hope that other nations would also follow Canada’s example and reject the referendum.
In effect, India is hopeful that a similar stance will emerge from other nations in the Five Eyes group, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. SFJ has also been active in other European nations like Germany and Italy.
The Canadian position came even as contacts between New Delhi and Ottawa have increased since Trudeau came back to power in October 2019. Since then, he has met Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G7 summit and has recently spoken on the phone twice.
The two foreign ministers, S Jaishankar and François-Philippe Champagne have been frequently in touch, most recently last week over the Covid-19 pandemic and coordinated efforts to tackle the outbreak.
Similarly, Canada’s Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade Mary Ng has been in regular communication with Commerce, Industry and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal.
They spoke again on Wednesday on several issues including ongoing negotiations related to the Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Canada-India Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement.
SFJ has already attacked the Justin Trudeau’s government for the stand and asserted it will go ahead with its plans in Canada and elsewhere.
Its general counsel Gurpatwant Pannun in a statement said, “Canadian Sikhs will not let the Trudeau regime trump their right to peacefully express and propagate the political opinion of Khalistan by holding Referendum 2020. Trudeau government should find some other way to please India.”
The Canadian statement appears to have rattled pro-Khalistani groups in Canada.
A statement from the Shiromani Akali Dal Amritsar Canada attacked Hindustan Times’ reporting on this matter and said that the Indian Government has “admittedly started their phase 2 of its anti-referendum campaign to ensure any foreign Government do not recognize the results of the Sikh Referendum 2020”.