A Liberal MP has openly criticized his fellow MPs and his government for pandering to the Sikh Khalistan movement, saying their behaviour is damaging Canada-India relations.
Ramesh Sangha, MP for Brampton Centre, told a Mississauga Punjabi-language television channel that Liberals are divided on the issue of supporting the Khalistan movement, but many are clearly pandering to their supporters.
“There is no doubt, there cannot be two opinions that the Liberal party is pandering [to] Khalistan supporters,” Sangha said.
“One thing is for sure when we raise this issue, it will raise an anti-India slogan or demand the division of India on some ground. In that, ultimately our relations, the Canada-India relationship will certainly develop cracks.”
Khalistanis are those within the Sikh community that wish to see an ethnostate for Sikhs carved out of Indian territory. It has little support among Sikhs in Canada and India alike.
When asked if he thought that the Liberal Party had a “soft corner” for Khalistanis, his response was clear.
“It does,” he said.
Sangha serves as chair of the Canada-India Parliamentary Association, a group of parliamentarians who follow Canada-India relations. It was through the Association that his concerns developed, he said.
Sangha blamed the disruptions in Canada-India relations in the past couple years to elements within the Liberal party which continue to support the Khalistani movement against Canada’s wishes.
“[The prime minister] said in strong words that we don’t want a divided India, we want a united India and we will work for that. Sikh ministers, MPs of our Sikh brotherhood, these brothers of mine, they have their own… These are their views and as long as they demand it, it is viewed that they are separatists. When this view surfaces, India also voices its hard view,” Sangha said.
Canada-India relations have been rocky since Trudeau’s embarrassing state visit two years ago when a convicted Khalistani terrorist joined Canada’s delegation to India. Gerald Butts, Trudeau’s close advisor, claimed the Indian government wanted to embarrass Trudeau.
The Chief Minister of India’s Punjab province has also accused Trudeau of pandering to the Khalistan movement to try and gain votes in October’s general election.
In a statement, the Prime Minister’s Office firmly denied any support for Sikh extremism but did not address Sangha or his remarks directly.