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Tuesday April 16, 2024

A diplomatic storm

By Editorial Board
September 20, 2023

In a diplomatic twist no one saw coming, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has taken on the Indian government openly and without any ifs and buts. In a speech in parliament on Monday, Trudeau said that Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and the murder of Sikh leader and activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The Canadian foreign minister later announced that Canada had expelled an Indian diplomat Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of RAW in Canada, over the allegations. Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Canada on June 18. The situation seems to have escalated after Trudeau’s revelations that he had already conveyed deep concerns over this incident to Modi personally during his recent visit to Delhi for the G20 summit. The Canadian PM said – justifiably – that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen is “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”. India’s reaction has been to do away with diplomacy altogether, the Indian foreign ministry dismissing the allegations as “absurd” and also expelling a senior Canadian diplomat, asking him to leave Delhi in five days due to “growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities’’. However, it seems that the world is standing by Canada as the UK said it is in close touch with its Canadian partners about “serious allegations” from Ottawa while Australia and the US also said they are “deeply concerned” about the allegations.

Trouble between India and Canada had been brewing for quite some time, particularly due to the Khalistan Movement and the strong presence of ‘Khalistanis’ in Canada, as the country is home to the largest Sikh diaspora outside the Indian state of Punjab. This could also be the reason behind the way Trudeau was treated in New Delhi during the G20 Summit; Modi did not hold any formal bilateral meeting with Trudeau and according to a statement by the Indian government, expressed “strong concern” over the Sikh insurgency in Canada. Given its propensity for violence, the Indian government perhaps just cannot understand that free speech in the West allows for a lot more than the Indian government or its likes would endorse. But that the Indian government risked its diplomatic ties to Canada by killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil speaks volumes about the Modi regime’s disregard for diplomatic norms and fascist tendencies. Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a strong supporter of the Khalistan Movement and was declared a terrorist by India. However, his death and two other deaths of prominent Sikh leaders (not in Canada though) in recent months point to a sinister trend.

The brazenness and the impunity with which the Indian government is behaving mimics how Israel has behaved over the years. For years, marginalized communities in many countries have been saying that their ‘home countries’ are involved in such incidents where people are targeted in their new countries, but they have not been taken seriously. Maybe now that Canada has made it public that India is behind the killing of a Sikh leader, countries like India would think twice before carrying out such attacks. However, there is a divided opinion on the repercussions for India. Some experts believe that for a Canadian PM to publicly say this in parliament means they have enough evidence and would mobilize allies to send a strong message to India while others believe that after a while, the matter will be closed with a rap on the knuckles for India. Whatever happens, it is important that justice for Nijjar is achieved. Had a smaller country carried out such an attack in Canada or any Western country, there would have been serious repercussions in the shape of restrictions. India needs to be taught a lesson as well.