India Contemplates Revoking OCI Cards for Khalistani Supporters in Canada, US, and UK, Demonstrating Strong Resolve to Counter Trudeau's Allegations. Canada's Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, is currently facing criticism for accusing India of involvement in the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a move that has strained relations between the two nations during a pivotal period. Despite these allegations, PM Trudeau has not presented any concrete evidence, which has led to skepticism regarding his claims.
Concurrently, India has initiated significant measures in response to these allegations, including the suspension of visa services for Canadian citizens and the potential revocation of passports for individuals involved in attacks on Indian institutions, consulates, and embassies abroad. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India has also recently seized assets belonging to Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, designated as an individual terrorist, as an initial step in addressing pro-Khalistan activists residing overseas. Moreover, reports suggest that India is strongly considering canceling the Overseas Citizenship of India (OCI) cards of several pro-Khalistani protesters.
According to insider sources, the government has issued instructions to various agencies to identify pro-Khalistan activists residing in countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia, with the intention of nullifying their OCI cards to prevent them from enjoying visa-free access to India.
In contrast to many countries worldwide that permit dual citizenship, Indian Citizenship Law does not allow for such a status. Therefore, numerous individuals living in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and others have acquired citizenship in those nations while retaining their connection to India through the OCI card. These OCI cardholders enjoy certain rights akin to Indian citizens but are barred from participating in elections, voting, holding government positions or constitutional roles, and purchasing agricultural land.
The decision to suspend visa services for Canadian citizens may have a considerable impact on those planning to visit India for weddings and the upcoming festival season. Some media reports have already highlighted numerous hotel bookings in Punjab facing cancellations as a result.
Notably, the majority of the Sikh population opposes the Khalistan Movement and its proponents. While advocating for Khalistan is prohibited in India, Sikh activists in Canada have the freedom to openly express their views and mobilize in support of the cause.
Presently, there is no active insurgency in Punjab, and the demand for Khalistan primarily emanates from small and insignificant groups abroad pursuing their own political agendas by stoking sentiments among the overseas Sikh community.
It's crucial to acknowledge that only a fraction of Canadian Sikhs continue to advocate for separatism without significant support elsewhere, underscoring their disconnection from the ground reality. This movement is primarily confined to Canada, where some pro-Khalistanis aim to use it to bolster the diaspora Sikh identity and gain political influence in a foreign land.
However, not all Sikhs support the separatist movement, and not all Khalistan movement supporters endorse extremist tactics to promote a Sikh state. A substantial population of young Sikhs residing abroad has limited interest in the movement, having been born in their current countries and learning about India and their homeland primarily through their parents.
Trudeau's Political Complications
Another critical aspect to consider is the political landscape in Canada. In the 2021 Canadian elections, Justin Trudeau's party lost its majority, leading to an alliance with Canadian MP Jagmeet Singh, who also heads the left-wing New Democratic Party (NDP). The NDP secured 24 seats in the election.
By forming an alliance with Singh's NDP to secure his position, Trudeau found himself somewhat beholden to Singh's political objectives. It's essential to acknowledge that the NDP enjoys significant support from Khalistan proponents in Canada. Trudeau is, therefore, compelled to align his stance with Singh's sentiments regarding the Sikh movement.
Trudeau cannot overlook the fact that the NDP exerts continuous pressure on him. Even before seeking the NDP's support, he was well aware that the party had strong backing from Khalistan supporters in Canada. Consequently, Trudeau may find himself navigating a path that aligns with the interests of his political partner and supporters, given that the NDP has committed its support to him until 2025. Notably, Singh was denied an Indian visa in 2013 due to his anti-India activities and associations with extremists.
The Complex Situation
In his efforts to preserve his government and remain in the prime minister's post, Trudeau may have inadvertently forgotten that he has chosen to challenge India, a nation widely regarded as the world's most robust democracy. Under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi, who has garnered a 76% approval rating, making him the most popular global leader according to a US-based consultancy firm's 'Global Leader Approval Rating Tracker,' India is rapidly emerging as one of the world's largest economies. India is seen as a realm of openness, opportunities, and choices, with growing optimism and confidence in its economy.
Furthermore, experts suggest that deteriorating relations with India could hinder Canada's access to Indo-Pacific institutions. Regional allies may be reluctant to disrupt relations with India, a nation wielding significant influence and clout, potentially impeding Canada's participation in specific groups.
Canada ranks as India's 17th largest foreign investor, having poured more than $3.6 billion into the country since 2000. Canadian portfolio investors have also made substantial investments in Indian stock and debt markets. Over 600 Canadian companies, including Bombardier and SNC Lavalin, maintain a strong presence in India. Simultaneously, more than 30 Indian firms, such as major infotech companies TCS, Infosys, and Wipro, have invested billions of dollars in Canada, generating thousands of jobs.