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Let Us Wish A Very Successful Visit Of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau To India

Unfortunately, for some time, a hide and seek game between the Friends of India in BC and Ontario, the so-called separatist elements and the Indian and Canadian  establishments has been going on.  Recently, the ethnic media here picked up a story from the Outlook Magazine in India which has shown Prime Minister Trudeau with Sikh symbols and  a title Khalistan-II, Made in Canada. Last month, a ban was imposed on  the entry of Indian government servants  and consular officials in several Gurdwaras across Canada as well as in other countries of the world.  The reason cited was the ‘Indian officials  interference’ in the religious affairs of the Sikhs’.

By Zile Singh

There are historical ties between India and Canada for over a century and a quarter.  The process of migration from India started in the late 19th century.  With the Indian Independence from the common masters, the bond strengthened as members of the Commonwealth of Nations.  As founder members of the United Nations , both India and Canada joined hands to promote mutual understanding, cooperation and peace throughout the world.  Both countries became members of various Multilateral Forums.

Several  high-level visits between both countries have taken place during the last two decades to further the  bilateral relations in political, trade, science and technology, health, education and cultural fields.  The two-way trade has increased substantially during the last one decade and there is  immense potential to further enhance the trade  to double digits in billion dollars.  Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to  Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver in April 2015 was an important milestone in taking our bilateral relations further. Bilateral cooperation in sectors like Nuclear and Natural Energy, Education, Agriculture, Science and Technology, Outer Space etc., were discussed during the visit.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India next week will give strength to  the already existing good relations between our two countries. More Agreements and Memorandum of Understanding are expected to be inked.

Canada is a home to  almost 1.3 million persons of Indian origin.  Majority of them are now Canadian citizens. The density of such Indians is mainly in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton etc.  The migration of students and young professionals is on the rise each year.  Thanks to the adaptability of the Canadian system that the Indian Diaspora has achieved exemplary success in politics, business, linguistics, cultural and communication fields.  The Diaspora represents Sikh, Hindu, Islam, Buddhist and Jain  religions.  Under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, they have the opportunity to associate and express themselves freely in regards to their faith and feelings. The Indian visitors of importance, as well as the diplomats, feel proud to announce from the top of the stage about the strength of the Indo-Canadian  Members of the Parliament which include 4 Minister in Justin Trudeau’s cabinet. In  several  Legislative Assemblies, particularly, British Columbia the Indo-Canadian representation is quite heartening with several Ministers in the provincial cabinet.  At one time the Premiership of British Columbia was adorned by a prominent lawyer of Indo-Canadian community.   The Indian leaders and the accredited diplomats even do not shy away from accepting  that such opportunities could not be provided to them under the Indian system – the land of their birth. Since India became a Republic, the number of Sikh Members of the Indian  Parliament has not reached 20.

It is but natural that  achievement  has its own price. To sustain that achievement, a broad mind and farsightedness are required.   Some fringe and minuscule elements  try to derail the bogey of achievement of the Diaspora as a whole and    the mutual  relationship between our two great nations.  India is not only a country but a Subcontinent with immense potential for Canadian business to take advantage of.   Canada also is of the size of a continent in respect of its land mass. There are a lot of opportunities for the Indian business and also the Indian immigrants in the categories of professionals and the students to settle in Canada.   Both nations are an example of diversity and multiculturalism under a vibrant parliamentary system of democracy.

Unfortunately, for some time, a hide and seek game between the Friends of India in BC and Ontario, the so-called separatist elements and the Indian and Canadian  establishments has been going on.  Recently, the ethnic media here picked up a story from the Outlook Magazine in India which has shown Prime Minister Trudeau with Sikh symbols and  a title Khalistan-II, Made in Canada. Last month, a ban was imposed on  the entry of Indian government servants  and consular officials in several Gurdwaras across Canada as well as in other countries of the world.  The reason cited was the ‘Indian officials  interference’ in the religious affairs of the Sikhs’.

Last year,   one group was apparently instrumental in foiling the programme of the Indian government to celebrate the 350th Anniversary of the Tenth Sikh Guru, Sri Guru Gobind Singh in Surrey.  Later the group took the responsibility.   At that time, the Friends of India in Vancouver/Surrey and also the elected representatives who are not supporting the so-called separatist elements kept silence. That  silence can be interpreted in different ways.   The cancellation of the celebrations was not good for either side. If that decision of the Government of India was also taken as ‘interference’ then things need to be looked into from the very bottom with  a right perspective by all the relevant parties.

As for  the free speech  allowed by the Charter for Rights and Freedoms in Canada, it is the duty of the Canadian government to make sure that any speech or views expressed in the public which are detrimental to the sovereignty and integrity of another friendly State need to be curbed.  Acceptance of any secessionist  propaganda, in a peaceful way or otherwise,  against a friendly  State from a religious, political or cultural platform gives rise to support that move  and  interference in another State’s internal affairs. At the same time, every country has the duty to safeguard the genuine interests of its citizens, either at home or in a foreign land.

It is sad if any Indo-Canadian citizen(s) is implicated on frivolous grounds while visiting Punjab.  It is evident that the Provincial level politics is more active in  the game rather than the politics  at the Federal governments’ level in both the countries.

Both the Prime Ministers enjoy mutual trust and cooperation. The business, cultural and religious communities of both countries should  wish a successful visit  of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India.

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These are my personal views.

Mr. Zile Singh is much respected Link Columnist, writer and a Vipassana Meditator. He can be reached at zsnirwal@yahoo.ca .

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