By Sulakhan Singh Dhillon, Ph.D
Though Punjab issues are geo politically unimportant to Canada, they are made to relate vitally to Canadian foreign affairs, there are two vital reasons for this. First, Canadian Sikhs relate naturally to the Sikh struggle in Punjab for an independent Sikh state, Secondly, there is Mr. Joe Clark’s interpretation of and compliance with the Indo Canadian treaty. The first reason is very clear that the Sikhs abroad, whet~ her in the U.S, Canada, or in any other land, are not going to turn their backs on their kin who are struggling for their independence back in Punjab. The second reason is complex as the struggle for the Sikh state in Punjab moves forward; Mr. Clark gets very upset under the pressure of the struggle, and starts shooting from the hip. He buys India’s story on wholesale basis, without showing a sound grasp of the situation on the other side. He deals with the Sikhs at home as nothing but a troublesome lot. By so doing, Mr. Clark is involving himself in a triangular conflict with himself, the Sikhs, and Canada. The common denominator of this triangle is the Sikh struggle for complete freedom from India. But for him to take a blatant approach and lash out at Canadian Sikhs by forcing Canadian officials to boycott worthy meetings and workshops with its people is unacceptable by any standard of political behavior. One wonders how Joe Clark’s policy if one could call that a policy is going to help India. If this pattern is allowed to prevail and continue, then Mr, Clark is, whether consciously or unconsciously, creating a domestic problem. He then has polarized himself against his own fellow Canadian citizens, which is absurd. The struggle for an independent Sikh state is India’s “internal problem”, and Mr. Clark must not make it a “Canadian internal problem”. Canadian Sikhs love and cherish their Canadian civil liberties, and any mistrust or undue restrictions on them would be a direct violation of Canadian civil rights. One also wonders if Mr. Clark is in violation of Canadian law, which is definitely not a part of the Canadian treaty with India. Canada must not contaminate Canadian peace with a treaty gift of a friend which actually turns out to be a trap for Canada. Canada cannot afford to open another front for India to go after the Sikhs. Keeping sharp eyes on the activities of Sikh organizations in Canada is not going to stop the Sikh movement for complete independence for the Sikhs in India. This struggle has spread worldwide by now. As the Sikh state comes into being, Mr. Clark’s successor may someday have a better treaty with it than with India, and would not need to worry about a clause providing for the Canadian government to keep its eyes on Hindus in Canada.
The chimera of political uncertainties cannot be ignored by a wise diplomat; therefore Mr. Clark has much to think about in his reflections on dealing with people.
The Sikh struggle invites parallels with the struggle fought by the Jews for Israel, as well as the struggles currently being waged by the Arabs for Palestine, the Northern Irish for independence from Britain, the Afghans for a Soviet free homeland, and the struggle being waged for an end to Apartheid in South Africa. Canadian Sikhs feel that they must be free to lend their moral support to their kinsmen back home. What is so horrible about that?
The United States Department, which is not supportive of Sikh independence, at least openly, does not interfere with the U.S. Sikhs, they are openly working with certain U.S. Congress members every day, and Sikh affairs are openly discussed. The U.S. Sikhs have yet to find a communiqué from Mr. George Schultz which would parallel that of Mr. Clark. Truly, the worst policy, domestic or foreign, is to squeeze your own citizenry for the sake or benefit of a fair weather friend outside your borders. The “expediency rule” dictates to keep peace at home first, so that people support their government.
There are no rampant activities of the World Sikh Organization, the Babar Khalsa, or the International Sikh Youth Federation in Canada which are creating any imminent danger to Canada. Mr. Clark’s alarming concern breeds mistrust, and shows extreme bias, thereby creating complications for all Canadians, which can become an extremely undesirable state of affairs. He should be advised to create an integrated approach to this problem by involving members of the Canadian parliament and distinguished Sikh leaders, in a sophisticated approach to reach a clear understanding. It might create fresh unity of government and its people.
The Sikh freedom struggle in Punjab addresses serious issues of equality, justice, religious freedom, and economic and civil exploitation of the Sikh people in India. This situation cannot be tolerated, and must be resolved by nothing short of a genuine political solution, for the complete freedom of the Sikhs, who are at present a “no state” nation seeking to become a “nation state”. What is wrong with this thesis? Is this not the way that states come into being? Canadian Sikhs, U.S. Sikhs, European Sikhs, Malaysian Sikhs, Australian Sikhs, and many others largely show unison in this respect. The international community of nations condemns oppression, torture, and other flagrant violations of human rights. India has been documented as being one of the most backward nations in practicing human rights. Why, then, does Mr. Clark close his eyes to India’s ways, and think that the problem does not exist? He must not ignore the pragmatic thinking that could solve the Sikh problem. India shows no political maturity, and Rajiv’s tendencies to punish Sikhs cannot be acceptable. This pits Sikhs against communalism, fascist moves, and undemocratic oppression. Political pundits universally agree that such harsh policies have never worked in human history, and cannot be considered workable for India now. The effect is devastation in the human psyche, and it practically kills a generation. Over 15 million Sikhs are not going to disappear from the face of the earth. The Sikh problem thus needs an imminent solution, as the death toll keeps mounting. Everyone, universally, has condemned the attack on the Golden Temple and 40 other Sikh temples. Is not India sensitive to world opinion? These events are part of Canada’s foreign policy, as Canada is part of all the civilized nations. Mr. Clark could do better if he would take this problem beyond the context of making Canadian Sikhs scapegoats. He could lead other parallel « officials of other governments, such as those in the Commonwealth Countries, in arranging an open meeting to discuss the Sikh problem. This seems to be the more enlightened approach than that of painting himself into a corner, which is unworthy of a responsible diplomat.
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