On Wednesday, the Indian government issued a cautionary advisory to its citizens residing in Canada and those planning to visit the country due to the escalating diplomatic tensions between the two nations. The recent disputes between India and Canada stem from the expulsion of diplomats stationed in each other’s countries, triggered by the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader.
India and Canada have witnessed a growing rift as both nations expelled diplomats amid a series of disputes triggered by the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh leader, in British Columbia in June. The tension escalated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that Canada investigating “evidence-based” allegations of potential involvement of Indian government agents in Nijjar’s murder.
In response, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs urged all Indian citizens in Canada, as well as those planning to travel there, to exercise extreme caution. This advisory issued due to the increasing anti-India activities, racial crimes, and politically tolerated criminal violence in Canada.
Security Concerns for Indian Students
The ministry also called upon Indian students, in particular, to be highly vigilant and cautious due to the deteriorating security environment in Canada. It emphasized the need for students to stay alert.
It’s noteworthy that India has been the largest source of international students in Canada since 2018. The number of Indian students in Canada increased by 47 percent last year, reaching 320,000, which constitutes approximately 40 percent of all international students in Canada. The International Education Bureau of Canada, which assists various institutions in providing educational subsidies to domestic students, provided this data.
Canadian officials have not yet disclosed the reasons behind their belief that India involved in Nijjar’s murder. India’s ruling party, the BJP, immediately rejected Canada’s suspicion of Indian involvement in the assassination.
The largest opposition party in India, the Congress Party, also supported the government’s denial of these allegations. This further propelled the government to take a strong stance in defense of the country’s sovereignty.
The Khalistan Issue
Canada’s defense of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, previously declared a terrorist, has been met with condemnation in India. Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a senior member of the Congress Party, expressed his dismay at Trudeau’s support for Nijjar, highlighting how this incident reveals Canada’s sympathy for Khalistani sympathizers. Khalistan refers to the proposed independent Sikh state, the pursuit of which led to a bloody rebellion in northern India’s Punjab region during the 1980s and 1990s, resulting in tens of thousands of casualties.
While support for the Khalistan insurgency in India has significantly diminished, small Sikh groups in Australia, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States continue to advocate for Sikh separatism and occasionally hold protests outside Indian embassies.
New Delhi has long been apprehensive about the activities of Sikh separatists in Canada and has urged the Canadian government to take action against what it perceives as anti-India elements. Former chief of India’s external intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing, A.S. Dulat, remarked that Trudeau’s announcement of expelling an Indian diplomat in Parliament peculiar, emphasizing that India does not engage in such behavior. He also clarified India’s stance by stating that India does not engage in random killings.
Sikh Population in Canada
Canada is home to the largest Sikh population outside of the Indian state of Punjab, with 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census. Some Indian analysts argue that Canada has not curtailed the activities of Sikh demonstrators due to their political influence.
Trade Relations in Jeopardy
Both sides have acknowledged the freezing of protracted discussions on a potential trade deal. Canada and India attempting to boost their low-level trade, which valued at only $10.2 billion in 2022, out of Canada’s total trade value of $1.13 trillion. The recent diplomatic tensions risk further straining these trade relations.
In conclusion, the strained diplomatic relations between India and Canada have led to cautionary advisories to Indian citizens and could potentially impact trade ties between the two nations.