Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being pilloried as being singularly responsible for taking the relationship to the rocks.
India-Canada ties have hit a nadir on running into a stumbling block of enormous proportions. In a historic first, India has been accused of bringing about the assassination of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in the car park of a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, in June leading to an ugly diplomatic spat involving the mutual ejection of senior diplomats from both countries.
Not since Jamal Ahmed Khashoggi was assassinated at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by state operatives has any country been accused of eliminating a person on foreign soil with the employment of its operatives as a hit squad. India bristles at the suggestion, with righteous indignation, of course.
Not reputed for cloak-and-dagger stuff beyond regular surveillance, unlike the notorious intelligence agencies of a few other prominent powers, Indian intelligence agencies are now being accused of carrying out a murder on foreign soil. On the face of it, this sounds far-fetched even if we stretch credulity to accept that anything is possible in today’s fragmented world.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is being pilloried as being singularly responsible for taking the relationship to the rocks. Not only is his government dependent on the Indian diaspora-dominated New Democratic Party for its survival, but also the Canadian PM has been accused of dalliance with the Indian diaspora, largely comprising Punjabi immigrants, for electoral support.
It is often said that one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter. It does seem the freedoms of Canada, as defined by its laws and traditions, have been made full use of by certain separatist Indian-origin elements who have carried out attacks on temples and embassies with impunity while espousing the cause of a separate Khalistan and drumming it up into a campaign with possible implications for India’s sovereignty.
Even so, it must be accepted that Mr Trudeau was treated shabbily at the G-20, reduced as he was to a “pull aside” meeting rather than being granted a full-fledged bilateral meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The vintage 34-year-old aircraft of Canadian Prime Ministers also saw him stranded in New Delhi for two days after the summit when, in view of an already deteriorating relationship, he did not wish to enjoy the ride on the Indian PM’s plane back home.
While none will support a state using terror or elimination squads to get rid of critics or those opposed to it even if they espouse causes detrimental to another nation’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, it did appear that the Canadians jumped the gun by announcing India’s suspected role in Parliament long before the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concludes its investigation. The term “credible allegations” has entered the diplomatic lexicon now.
It is commonly believed that Canadian politics is playing out in this ugly manner with the likes of the PM and his party wooing sections of the Indian diaspora that is known to foster such romantic notions as a separate homeland for Sikhs. Keeping the trade deal on ice and maintaining ties at a frosty level may appear fair as national strategy if this is the playbook by which they are going to sour relations for a few votes.
If the investigators, who are yet to even identify the two masked gunmen, are unable to offer proof enough to convict the “alleged” assailants with ties to Indian agencies, Canada would need to do a lot to save its international credibility. Its laws and freedoms may permit any kind of eccentric causes being promoted, but the rule of law means it would have to prove what has been stated in Parliament are not mere wild allegations. Mending relations with India may come with a severe cost if Prime Minister Trudeau is simply barking up the wrong tree, as per credible suspicions now.