The United States has defended its stance on allowing Khalistan supporters to hold rallies and events in its soil, calling it a matter of freedom of speech and association. This comes despite India’s repeated objections and warnings that such activities could harm the bilateral ties between the two countries.
Khalistan is a separatist movement that seeks to create an independent homeland for Sikhs in the northern Indian state of Punjab. The movement has been largely propagated by Sikh diaspora groups in countries like the US, Canada, and the UK, where they have organised events such as the Referendum 2020 and the London Declaration to garner support for their cause.
India has also urged Western countries to not give space to such separatist elements and to respect India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Canada and the UK have also allowed Khalistan rallies to take place on their soil, despite India’s protests. Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently alleged that Indian government agents were behind the killing of a Canadian Sikh leader who supported Khalistan.
The Khalistan issue has been a source of friction between India and its Western allies for decades. The most violent phase of the movement was in the 1980s, when a radical preacher named Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale led an armed insurgency in Punjab. He was killed in 1984, when the Indian army stormed the Golden Temple, Sikhism’s holiest site, where he had taken refuge with his followers. The operation resulted in thousands of deaths and sparked widespread riots across India, in which thousands of Sikhs were killed by mobs.
The movement has since lost much of its steam within India, but it continues to find support among some sections of the Sikh diaspora. The Indian government has been trying to counter their propaganda and expose their links with Pakistan. The Indian security agencies have also been monitoring their activities and preventing their attempts to infiltrate Punjab.
The Khalistan issue is likely to remain a thorny one for India’s relations with the US and other Western countries, as they balance their strategic interests with their democratic values. India hopes that they will respect its sensitivities and not allow their soil to be used for anti-India activities.