India’s ‘muscular’ foreign policy is essentially for domestic consumption: Ex-Canadian Minister Ujjal Dosanjh


Calling for immediate de-escalation in strained diplomatic relations between India and Canada, Ujjal Dosanjh, former premier of British Columbia and erstwhile Canadian Minister of Health, stressed that India’s “muscular” foreign policy is essentially for domestic consumption and not granting visas to Canadian citizens hurts ordinary Indo-Canadians. “You cannot give collective punishment just because a few have erred. It is people like us who suffer,” he tells IANS. The diplomatic row that erupted after Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot in Canada, and the Canadian Prime Minister alleged the possible involvement of Indian security agencies has now led to the expulsion of 41 Canadian diplomats and a visa ban from India.

Maintaining that it is only a minuscule Punjabi population in Canada that raises the demand for Khalistan, and the majority continues to be pro-India, Dosanjh, who publicly took on the Khalistanis in the 80s and survived a major attack with almost 100 stitches, feels that the whole situation could have been handled more maturely. “Let us not forget that (Justin) Trudeau is surrounded by Khalistanis. However, he should have made the statement in Parliament with some kind of proof. Of course, the fact that the media was all set to publish the story, and he had to act fast is also understandable,” he says.

While stressing that in a free country like Canada, there is nothing wrong in demanding Khalistan, the former Health Minister asserts that keeping in mind the friendly relations between the two countries, the Canadian Prime Minister should make it clear that he does not support the dismemberment of India. “It did not take long for the Canadian PM to condemn the glorification of the violence Hamas unleashed on Israel recently, what is stopping from condemning the violence of Khalistanis in Canada? By the way, I also wonder if some people in Canada are so interested in the idea of Khalistan, why don’t they come here.” Dosanjh, who was recently at the Khushwant Singh Literary Festival in Kasauli, added that contrary to popular perception in India, the idea of Khalistan has very little role to play in Canadian elections, adds, “It is the state of the economy that drives people’s voting behaviour.”


Believing that a little more maturity shown by leaders of both countries can be instrumental in putting the Indo-Canadian relations back on track, he says even the Indian side needs to be less touchy and jingoistic. “Trudeau had other platforms to raise the issue and not make a statement like that in the Parliament. The Indian side can formally request countries for extradition, and stop using international issues for domestic gains.” Looking back at his political career in Canada, he says his heart has always been that of an activist and not a politician. “When I ran, and I won. I never thought I would do all the things that I did,” he concludes.