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Managing Dissent in the Indian Diaspora


As India’s diaspora grows and aspirations of those in foreign lands increase, managing

dissent within is expected to remain a major challenge. The backward integration of the diaspora to their roots in India with issues as separatism are likely to emerge as a security as well as foreign policy issue creating rows with governments abroad - witness the India Canada spat over Hardeep Singh Nijjar that broke out almost immediately after the highly successful G 20 Summit in Delhi.


As the diaspora organises around their Indian origin their voice will grow within the communities in which they live abroad. The objective would be to foster interest of the community in alien land and make their voice felt. Beyond this the diaspora could also look back at the events back home in India and seek to air the grievance of communities real or imagined.


Given the liberal environment prevailing in many countries such as the USA, Canada and UK which also have large diaspora of varying hues, there is ample scope for airing such grievances publicly even to the extent of promoting separatism and violent extremism as has been the case in Canada.


We are told that the Canadian laws permit such voices given that these do not portray direct harm, yet that these are detrimental to the security and stability of India is of limited concern to the leadership in some of the countries with Canada being the latest example.


Given sensitivities of relations with India and overall Canadian interests in the Indo Pacific could something have been done or should be done appears to be a moot issue for now as relations have deteriorated reaching a perigee today.


What is necessary to deliberate is to evolve a paradigm which can prevent recurrence of issues such as the Nijjar case where so called, “credible allegations,” are made against Indian agencies of assassination of a known terrorist as per Indian laws but a free citizen in Canada.


What other options can be there to manage such a situation? Did India try enough to convince the Canadian government that actions of the Sikh diaspora openly flaunting separatism in India and even celebrating the assassination of a Prime Minister of a country in a public rally could not be acceptable? Whatever be the facts of the present case, what is important is to see what can be done in the future.


The angst in a section of the Sikh community abroad be it in Canada or the UK as seen from preventing the Indian High Commission from attending as an invitee a function in a Gurudwara in Scotland has no sympathy in their kin living in India.


This is amply clear with incidents as the case of Amritpal Singh are exceptions and have occurred due to the leniency shown by the Indian state in some ways. There was no upsurge of protests in Punjab after Amritpal was arrested and flown out to a jail in Assam indicating that his grass roots support is non-existent. Thus, the community abroad may be attempting to light a fire where there is no smoke or beating a dead horse.


Governments have to be made aware of this reality. On the other hand, their actions are merely for gaining brownie points within the political space by flaunting extremism. These communities are not contributing to harmony of the society in which they are living which should be clear to the governments abroad.


While the role of Pakistan in providing anti India groups is well established, this factor may not gain much traction as it may be buttonholed in the legacy of antipathy between India and its Western Neighbour.


There is a need to comprehensively address this issue to brief foreign governments to raise their awareness in the first place failing which coercive diplomacy will be the answer. The latter will be a follow up rather than the first step.


The red line is not just attacks or threats of attacks on Indian diplomats and embassy or consulate but openly flaunting past incidents of violence and celebrating their perpetrators as heroes. This is not permissible in any modern society and states promoting the same need to review their considerations to remain in tune with the global approach to terror and not an insular one.


Thus managing dissent which promotes violence is not only an Indian responsibility but also equally that of foreign governments.


In this comprehensive briefing of foreign states linkage with the criminal drug network of many of the so called leaders of the diaspora needs to be highlighted.


While agencies as the Interpol may be taken on board direct one on one engagement should be preferred for speedy resolution.


Reaching out to the dissenting is an option that also needs to be examined while this may be rebuffed by the hardcore in the medium to long term this will achieve success.

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