Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, Prime Minister, Government of India, New Delhi

Dear Rajiv: I write in response to recent expressions of concern by the Government and the media of India over Canada’s response to terrorism.

Our embassy in New Delhi has apprised me of your recent comments that the Government of Canada “was not being stern enough with terrorists earlier,” and of the editorial criticism of the Times of India that the task of anti-Indian terrorists “has been facilitated by the could not careless approach of the Canadian authorities.”

Prime Minister, I wish to assure you, and through you the people of India, that such has not been, and will not be, Canada’s approach. Indeed, we could not care more. The Canadian Confederation was founded partly as a reaction to terrorist attacks by Fenian raiders from outside our borders, and Canada has always dealt forcefully with subversion plotted from within. We shall deal equally harshly with violence launched from our soil at any foreign nation.

The confirmed bomb attack on the CP Air flight and the suspected sabotage of the AirIndia flight have resulted in a dreadful and senseless loss of life. As most of the victims were Canadians, no country has felt the pain of these events more deeply than Canada, and no country will thwart their repetition with more determination than Canada. For this reason, my Minister of Transport ordered immediate improvements to airport security.

But Prime Minister, I must draw your attention to the fact that Canadian airport security was already extremely strict by international standards. Scrutiny at our airports in Montreal and Toronto was at least as intensive as at airports in, for example, Bombay and Calcutta. The fact that security may nevertheless have proven inadequate is reason for all nations, not merely Canada, to redouble their efforts.

I also wish to inform you that the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service has made c sustained effort to monitor organizations suspected of activities which are inconsistent with Canadian law and with the friendly relations between Canada and India. We have accepted (and appreciated) the cooperation of your own security personnel, where relevant. What more do you expect us to do within the limits of our democratic society? In the absence of constructive advice, condemnation of this country’s antiterrorist efforts may strike many Canadians as gratuitous.

As my restrained public comments show, I wish to avoid mutual recriminations as well as interference in India’s internal affairs. Clearly, however, the terrorism now implanted on Canadian soil has its roots in the unresolved political tensions of the Punjab. Canadians therefore urge your Government to do all in its power to promote domestic reconciliation. At the risk of presumption, it has been Canada’s experience in communal relations that attempts to isolate and apprehend extremists are most successful when accompanied by political reforms which satisfy the legitimate demands of the alienated community from which the extremists come.

Prime Minister, in the shared challenge which confronts our two nations, Canadians counts on the Government of India to do its part. We shall do ours.


For peaceful purposes, I remain,

Yours sincerely,


Article extracted from this publication >>  July 26, 1985