Wednesday 27 September 2023

Canada-India diplomatic crisis deepens over assassination allegation

The diplomatic crisis between Canada and India has escalated to a new level, as both countries have expelled diplomats, suspended visa services, and exchanged sharp words over the allegation that India was involved in the assassination of a Sikh activist on Canadian soil.

The dispute began on Monday, when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed in Parliament that his government had "credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen" . He was referring to Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader, who was shot dead by masked men outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18

Trudeau said that Canada had expelled an Indian diplomat, whom he described as the head of the Indian intelligence agency in the country, as a "consequence" of the allegation . He also called on India to cooperate in the investigation and to "allow justice to follow its course"

India responded by rejecting Trudeau's allegation as "absurd and motivated", accusing Canada of harboring terrorists and failing to act against extremists who pose a security threat to India. India also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat from the country and suspended visa operations in Canada for all categories of visas "temporarily" due to the "security situation" in that country and the "creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulates"

The diplomatic row has shocked many observers, as Canada and India are both key partners of the United States and have strong economic and cultural ties. Canada and India are working toward a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA), and are committed to regularly holding Ministerial Dialogue on Trade and Investment to explore ways to deepen the commercial relationship.

The Sikh community in Canada, one of the largest outside India with more than 770,000 members, has also expressed its concern over the situation. Two Sikh community groups in Canada – the British Columbia Gurdwaras Council and Ontario Gurdwaras Committee – urged the Canadian government to "immediately suspend all intelligence, investigative and prosecutorial cooperation with India" ⁵. They also demanded that Canada's comprehensive response must reflect the gravity of India's role in the premeditated murder of a Sikh dissident living in Canada.

The dispute between Canada and India is likely to have implications for other major Western countries, especially the United States, which has strategic interests in both regions. The US has not commented publicly on the matter, but is expected to play a mediating role behind the scenes to defuse the tension and prevent further deterioration in relations between two of its allies.

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