India downgrades relations with Canada
by Naagesh Padmanaban on 02 Oct 2023 2 Comments

The ongoing diplomatic tensions between India and Canada has taken the center stage both in Canada and India. The war of nerves continues without resolution, with a series of tit-for-tat responses. Leaders on both sides appear to have firmed up their stances as the relations between two key democratic countries in the world flounders.


At the center of this rift is the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey in Canada’s British Columbia earlier in June this year. He was a plumber by day and a Khalistani terrorist by night, who had active links to Pakistani and Canadian Intelligence agencies. The man was wanted by Indian security agencies for several years now, on multiple charges that included terrorism, narcotics, murder, and fake passport rackets.


Can two major liberal democracies snap their relations over the death of an otherwise smalltime plumber-cum-terrorist who was unknown to the Canadian public? Had Canada not gone public with its accusations, the matter would have had a greater chance of resolution by prudent heads via bilateral negotiations behind closed doors in Ottawa or New Delhi.


There was further escalation when Prime Minister Trudeau, while addressing Parliament, had the chutzpah to ask India to cooperate with them in the on-going investigations, thereby preemptively declaring his presumptions of guilt on the part of India. This is no diplomatese or for that matter able statesmanship.


In a further embarrassment to the Canadians, media reports have pointed out the plain incompetence of Canadian security agencies who have made no headway in the murder investigations even after three months, despite the availability of CCTV footages and eye witness accounts.


Its appeal for support from its Five Eyes partners had at best, a cautious response from the US, while others mouthed carefully measured statements, but offered no direct condemnation of India. Canada’s diplomatic intransigence pushed itself into a corner, thus magnifying a problem that it created in the first place.


The Canadian government as well as media – electronic media in particular – have been actively shepherding the narrative on the row to one of freedom of expression and Canada’s sense of justice and propriety in international conduct. The reality of course is at variance with Mr. Trudeau’s public posturing. The real problem, between the two countries is the shelter, support and sustenance provided to anti-India terrorists who are seeking to break away territory from India.


The Canadian government has been supporting anti-India groups and individuals for many decades now. In recent years however, Canada under Mr. Trudeau, has crossed the diplomatic red line on several occasions – by repeatedly commenting on India’s domestic politics and turning a blind eye to terrorists putting up posters to kill Hindus and Indian diplomats in Canada.


Slicing through the crafted diplomatic veneer of Prime Minister Trudeau’s “… rule of law, country and the protection of our citizens and defense of our sovereignty are fundamental...”, speech in Parliament, we continue to see Canada’s serial duplicity in mouthing something and doing the exact opposite. How come Canada’s sovereignty is more sacrosanct than India’s territorial integrity?


So that explains the anxiety of the Trudeau administration and major sections of its media to spin doctor a narrative far removed from the real reasons for the current state of Indo-Canadian affairs. The Indian media, on the other hand, has been level headed and reported the unfolding episodes by bringing in opinion makers from both countries to the table. 


The fragility of Trudeau’s ruling coalition and hence his compulsions to pander to extremist Sikh groups that spearhead the National Democratic Party of Canada are well understood. But to jeopardize Canada’s key international relationship, particularly during a less favorable economic cycle, for the sake of political expediency only smacks of myopia and political immaturity.


Prime Minister Modi on the other hand, runs a very strong and stable government and enjoys the loyal support of almost 80% of its vast populace. India under Modi today is of a different mettle. Lot of quiet transformations are already in place – be it bilateral dealings or securing India’s vital interests. As a powerful economy that is leading the resurgence of global economies, it has over the years invested and upgraded itself to deal with existential threats from far and near.


Unlike the past, the Indian security establishment is now more than willing and capable of delivering a “global solution to global threats” to the safety, security, and territorial integrity of India. Furthermore, India has demonstrated the political will to execute it.


The problem is that Canada, like many other countries, has discovered much to its chagrin, that it is no longer business as usual with India. India is no more the worlds’ whipping boy who will take state duplicity lying down when it comes to its security and safety of its citizens.


It must be noted here that in official communiques, the government of India while rejecting Trudeau’s statements, has sought evidence of an Indian hand in the murder of the plumber-terrorist. India knows fully well that no intelligence apparatus of a nation worth its salt will share its intelligence on matters of such high visibility that would compromise its assets.


It is worth mentioning that India has not publicly denied its hands in getting rid of threats to its territorial integrity. As the Indian foreign minister, Dr. S. Jaishankar said, “political convenience cannot give way to terrorism”. But if Canada or any other country would choose to do business with India in its old-fashioned ways, there will certainly be a “global response to global terror”. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has a Hobson’s choice on his hands.

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