In a recent turn of events, the relations between Canada and India have taken a sharp nosedive, with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau making a bold and accusatory move. Allegorically reflecting the strained ties between the two nations, Trudeau has expelled a top Indian diplomat, citing accusations that Indian government agents were involved in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Khalistan supporter, in June of this year.
The tensions between the leaders of both nations escalated during the Group of 20 (G20) Summit, where Trudeau found himself stranded in Delhi for two days due to a technical issue with his aircraft. During this summit, both Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi engaged in tense meetings, further derailing trade talks. Canada even cancelled a trade mission to India, originally planned for the fall season, because of these deteriorating relations.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the focal point of this controversy, was a Sikh separatist leader who ardently advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan, separate from India. His life was tragically cut short on June 18th when he was fatally shot at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia. The circumstances surrounding his murder raised suspicions within the local Sikh community, suggesting possible foreign involvement.
In response to these suspicions, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) undertook the investigation. After months of meticulous scrutiny, Prime Minister Trudeau made the bold accusation that India was behind Nijjar’s assassination.
This recent strain in India-Canada relations can be traced back to various incidents, particularly those occurring in 2023:
- G20 Summit: During the G20 Summit, Prime Minister Modi expressed his deep concerns to Trudeau regarding protests in Canada against India, particularly those associated with Sikh separatists. India has long been sensitive to the issue of Sikh protests in Canada, and this conversation further exacerbated tensions.
- June 2023: Earlier in the year, India criticized Canada for allowing a float in a parade that depicted the 1984 assassination of then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. This portrayal was seen as a glorification of violence by Sikh separatists. Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 after she ordered the military operation to storm the Golden Temple in Amritsar, aiming to eliminate Sikh separatists demanding an independent Khalistan.
- September 2023: Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng postponed a planned trade mission to India, originally scheduled for October. Both nations had previously expressed their intent to finalize an initial trade deal in 2023, but these plans are now on hold. The bilateral commercial relationship between India and Canada is substantial, with trade worth $100 billion, including $70 billion of Canadian portfolio investment, according to Indian figures.
- March 2023: In an earlier incident, India summoned Canada’s High Commissioner to express its concerns over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who breached the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates.
The current situation underscores the complexities and sensitivities involved in the India-Canada relationship, particularly concerning issues related to Sikh separatism and trade. The future of these diplomatic ties remains uncertain as both nations grapple with the fallout of recent events.