Looks like things are heating up between India and Canada! India has put a hold on visa services for Canadians until further notice. This shocking move comes hot on the heels of a global squabble that started with Canada’s accusations. They point the finger at Indian agents, alleging involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who happens to be a pro-Khalistan Sikh terrorist. India didn’t take this lightly and firmly shot down these accusations as “nonsense” and “agenda-driven”.
The Murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Nijjar, 45, was a known figure in Sikh separatist circles and chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force. He was gunned down outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia. India had previously labeled him one of its most wanted terrorists, offering a reward of ₹10 lakh for his capture. Origins: Nijjar hailed from Punjab’s Jalandhar. Position: He was a prominent figure in the movement for an independent Sikh homeland, Khalistan. He was also actively working towards organizing an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on Sikh independence from India.
The Diplomatic Spat
The ongoing rift between the two nations intensified after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau voiced “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in Nijjar’s assassination. In response: Both countries expelled a senior official. Travel advisories were updated, with Canada emphasizing potential unrest in Jammu and Kashmir and the northeast regions of India. India, in turn, cautioned its citizens in Canada about anti-India activities and hate crimes.
Statements and Allegations
Canada has yet to present evidence substantiating their claims about Indian involvement in the assassination. India’s External Affairs Ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, highlighted India’s concerns about the safety of its consulates in Canada. He confirmed the temporary suspension of visa services for Canadians and called for a reduction in Canadian diplomatic staff in India to match the Indian staffing in Canada.
India and Canada share a history of strained relations due to concerns about Sikh separatist groups operating within Canada. Canada is home to a significant Sikh population, over 2% of its citizens. In the 1970s and 1980s, a Sikh insurgency took place in north India, which was eventually suppressed. While active insurgency has waned, India claims that separatist sentiments persist and has urged countries like Canada to curb these activities.
Trade and Defense Relations
Despite the aforementioned tensions: The two nations have maintained robust defense and trade ties. Both countries see a shared strategic interest, particularly in view of China’s rising global ambitions. However, recent events have cast a shadow over these ties: A G20 summit hosted by India saw strained interactions between PM Modi and PM Trudeau. Canada subsequently canceled a planned trade mission to India, and a potential trade deal is now in limbo.
Mutual Interests and Potential Pathways Forward
While the current situation has strained diplomatic relations, both nations possess deep-rooted mutual interests that might pave the way for constructive dialogue and reconciliation. Economic Ties: India and Canada have historically enjoyed strong trade relations. In 2021 alone, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited India, marking Canada as one of the leading tourist contributors to the Indian economy. Resuming visa services and fostering tourism can serve as a stepping stone towards mending the relationship. Defense Collaborations: Both nations have collaborated on various defense projects and have shared intelligence on global security issues. Reigniting these collaborations can act as a bridge to rebuild trust.
India’s National Investigation Agency has amped up its actions against Sikh insurgents operating within its borders. The agency announced rewards for information leading to the arrest of several insurgents. Some of these insurgents are believed to be operating from neighboring countries, including Pakistan. In summary, the diplomatic ties between India and Canada are currently strained due to a myriad of factors, with the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar acting as a focal point. As both nations hold strategic importance to each other, the global community is keenly observing the developments, hoping for a swift resolution, that upholds the principles of diplomacy, mutual respect, and international cooperation.