Canada-India relationship has recently taken a dramatic turn. What was once a relatively cordial relationship has now shifted significantly. Officials from both nations now point fingers, accusing each other of interference in their internal politics. Moreover, this isn’t confined to lower levels of administration; instead, the blame game reaches the highest echelons of government.
The Canadian Prime Minister accuses India of an assassination on Canadian soil. In response, Arindam Bagchi, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) spokesperson, criticizes Canada for sheltering terrorists. A duelling expulsion of top-level diplomats was witnessed, making the relationship between the two countries soar.
THE ONGOING TUSSLE BETWEEN – India & Canada
Amidst efforts by influential nations to access India’s growing economy and foster mutual benefits, Canada made a surprising move. Canadian authorities decided to pause a proposed trade treaty with India, and this decision came just before the G20 Summit.
Moreover, the impact of the Canadian move was visible at the summit, too. There was no formal bilateral talk between the two countries. Instead, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi on September 10, the Indian PM Narendra Modi met Canadian PM Justin Trudeau. PM Modi expressed his deep worry over the anti-Indian activities of extremist forces in Canada.
Ignoring the concerning issue, Khalistani terrorists are encouraging violence against Indian diplomats. Additionally, they were also involved in destroying diplomatic properties, putting at risk the safety of the Indian community in Canada. Even places of worship are not spared from this alarming threat. Trudeau remained adamant about “Freedom of Expression” for communities in his country and “foreign interference.”
The whole G20 summit was a complete blunder for the Canadian PM. He even, without providing a reason, skipped the dinner organised for the world leader by Indian President Droupadi Murmu. Furthermore, due to a technical issue with his aircraft, the Canadian leader was stuck in India for over 48 hours. The failure of Trudeau’s visit to India was a highlighting point for the Canadian media and politicians.
THE CANADIAN GOVERNMENT’S BLIND EYE
Indian concerns about Canada providing refuge to terrorists are well-founded. Many designated terrorists have obtained Canadian citizenship after escaping from their respective countries. For instance, take the case of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), whose assassination on June 18 in Surrey this year triggered the relationship between the two countries.
Trudeau has been defending Nijjar because he was a Canadian citizen, but Trudeau is ignoring the fact that Nijjar immigrated to Canada in 1997 with a forged passport. His refugee application was denied, so he married a woman who sponsored him for immigration, which was also rejected.
Nijjar was classified as a terrorist by India in 2020. Nijjar was wanted in multiple instances, including the 2007 movie theatre blast in Ludhiana, Punjab, which killed six people and injured 42, and the 2009 murder of a Sikh Indian politician Rulda Singh.
A designated terrorist, involved in the killing of innocent people and promoting terror ideology, being defended by a country’s PM doesn’t show any ‘rule of law’ property.
The concern of Trudeau at Nijjar’s death is nothing more than a political agenda. On humanitarian and sovereignty grounds, if Nijjar’s death concerned him so much, then why not the same for the assassination of Human Rights activist Karima Baloch? Who was assassinated in 2020, and still, the Canadian government has not investigated the mysterious death.
A PM preaching the idea of liberty, sovereignty, and freedom of speech should know the basics that no ‘rule-based order’ permits a government to harbour recognized terrorists.
TRUDEAU’S SUPPORT OF KHALISTANI EXTREMIST IN CANADA
Canada has the world’s largest Sikh community outside India, with about 770,000 people, or 2.1% of the population. Thus, their support is welcomed to be in power in Canada. Justin Trudeau, in fear of not getting into force in the next term amid a decreasing approval rating, is targeting this 2.1% of the population. It’s only to fulfil his political motivations Trudeau decided to bring the death of Khalistani terrorist Nijjar after three months. To accuse any country of breaching sovereignty without providing credible evidence is nothing more than a political stunt.
India has shown concerns in the past about the Canadian government’s support of anti-India activities on Canadian soil. EAM S. Jaishankar warned that providing Sikh separatists space in Canada “was not good for the relationship” between the two countries. Even Jaishankar stated, “For us, how Canada has dealt with the Khalistani issue has been a long-standing concern because, very frankly, they seem to be driven by vote-bank politics.”
Jagmit Singh, head of Canada’s leftist New Democratic Party (NDP), is a pro-Khalistani leader and has supported the Trudeau government. Singh was denied a visa to India in 2013 due to anti-India actions and affiliations with radicals. He has a great influence on Trudeau, and to preserve the NDP support Trudeau has supported the pro-Khalistani politics.
Canadian PM should also answer how the posters calling for violence against Indian diplomats at the Gurudwara in Surrey are justified in the name of ‘freedom of speech’. How calling Talwinder Singh Parmar, a mastermind of the 1985 Air India Flight 182 bombing, which killed 329 innocent people (including 268 Canadians), a shaheed (martyr) will be justified.
IMPLICATIONS FOR CANADA
Degrading the relationship with India was in no favour of Canada. India is an economy with high growth, soon to be the third largest in the world. Indians play an essential part in the Canadian economy. The geopolitical concerns have resulted in the cancellation of Canada’s scheduled trade mission to India in October, as well as the suspension of talks toward a long-delayed trade agreement.
Indians make up more than one-third of all foreign students in Canada. Canadian educational institutions require revenue from international students to cover escalating operating costs. According to Canadian government studies, international students contribute around $22 billion to the Canadian economy and help to sustain over 170,000 jobs.
Amid tensions between the two countries, New Delhi has banned visa services for Canadians indefinitely. The ban came after India issued a warning to its residents in Canada to take extreme caution in light of rising anti-India sentiment and “politically-sanctioned hate crimes.” Indian students have been encouraged to be especially cautious and watchful. The same ban on visas for Indians could devastate the already strained Canadian economy.
THE WORLDS’ REACTION
The recent tension between New Delhi and Ottawa has brought ramifications for Canada. There is no open support against India by the major countries. Canada wrongly perceived that the world especially the West would support Trudeau’s cause but the plan failed.
Before the G-20 conference, Canada reportedly held weeks of behind-the-scenes talks with its closest friends, notably Five Eyes intelligence-sharing countries, to officially condemn Nijjar’s murder but they avoided openly discussing Trudeau’s concerns with Modi during the G-20.
India received the support of Sri Lanka amid tension with Canada. In response to the India-Canada dispute, Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Ali Sabry stated, “Some of the terrorists have found haven in Canada. The Canadian Prime Minister has a habit of making absurd claims with no evidence to back them up.”
Amid tension with India, a global embarrassment came for Canada when standing ovations were given to a guy who fought in a Nazi regiment during WWII, titling him a “Ukrainian and Canadian hero” in the House of Commons, including from Ukrainian President Zelenskyy and Canadian PM Trudeau, who were in attendance.
The killing of Nijjar is seen as a political move. Trudeau’s reaction, while causing short-term ramifications, is unlikely to impact people-to-people relations significantly. If both nations focus on diplomatic resolution rather than political posturing, there’s a chance for an amicable solution to emerge. Therefore, we should note what S. Jaishankar said at the 78th Session of UNGA in New York: “Nor must be countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism, and violence.”
Trudeau’s government must grasp that advocating for sovereignty requires avoiding shelter for elements threatening others’ sovereignty. Nijjar, not a saint, had an Interpol red corner notice against him. The government’s blindness to the violence caused by Khalistani elements may have long-term implications for peace in Canada.
Suppose Trudeau doesn’t trust the Indian government. In that case, he should take a look at the 2018 Public Report on the terrorism threat to Canada,’ published by his government, which clearly states that “some individuals in Canada continue to support violent means to establish an independent state within India.”
According to the same report, Babbar Khalsa International and the International Sikh Youth Federation have been linked to terrorism and are designated as terrorist organizations under the Canadian Criminal Code.
Trudeau’s government must confront the rise in organized crime and gang wars on Canadian soil. Khalistani terrorists are frequently associated with these criminal networks, underscoring the importance of providing concrete evidence before making allegations about any country’s involvement in internal affairs. Failing to do so could have lasting repercussions for the bilateral relationship.
About the Author
Aman Bora is currently a Ph.D. Candidate in the Department of Political Science of Soban Singh Jeena University Almora, Uttarakhand (India). He received his master’s degree in Political Science (Silver Medalist) from Kumaun University Nainital in Uttarakhand (India) and has passed the UGC-National Eligibility Test in Political Science subject. He is an ardent researcher and a curious learner avidly interested in International Relations, Defense Studies, Geo-politics and topics related to National Interests.
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