- India Canada Relations are facing a serious downturn after Canada Prime Minister’s Trudeau accused “agents of the Government of India” of killing of Canadian Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023.
- Trudeau’s accusation has set off a chain of events.After Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat, India summoned the Canadian High Commissioner and expelled Canada’s Station chief for intelligence.
What is the history of India Canada Relations?
- Diplomatic relations between India and Canada date back to 1947.
- A significant milestone in this relationship occurred in April 2015 when the Prime Minister of India visited Canada, elevating bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.
- In recent times, both nations have been actively collaborating to strengthen cooperation across various sectors of shared significance witnessed deterioration in the political domain despite economic engagement, regular high-level interactions and long-standing people-to-people ties.
Reasons for thaw in relations:
- Canada’s support for Plebiscite in Kashmir – Canada supported a plebiscite in the Indian state of Kashmir in 1948.
- Canada’s opposition to India’s nuclear tests – After India conducted nuclear tests, it’s relations with Canada deteriorated as Canada recalled its high commissioner to India following the nuclear tests.
- Also India’s refusal to accept NPT (the Non-Proliferation Treaty) and the CTBT (Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty) further widened the gulf between New Delhi and Ottawa for many years.
- Khalistan Issue – Relations between India and Canada have remained strained due to Canada’s alleged leniency toward supporters of Khalistan.
Khalistan factor in Canadian politics
- Canada is home to the second-largest Sikh population in the world, after India. In terms of their population, they form more than 2 percent of the total population of Canada, with nearly 8,00,000 people. They are also the fastest-growing and fourth-largest religious community in Canada.
- Over the years, Canada has seen several phases of Sikh migration. They have now developed into a robust and economically flourishing community.
- Earlier in the 1980s, Canada had provided sanctuary to several dreaded terrorists, including Jagjit Singh Chauhan and Talwinder Singh Parmar, among others.
- Presently, several ‘designated terrorists’ like Arshdeep Singh Gill alias Arsh Dalla of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) are residing in Canada.
- While Canada’s actions during the 1980s were guided by Cold War dynamics, its present actions are influenced purely by vote bank politics.
- In the 2019 Canadian federal election, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal Party got 157 votes, 13 short of a majority. Hence, they had to form a coalition government with the ‘New Democratic Party’ led by Jagmeet Singh Dhaliwal, a pro-Khalistan leader.The Trudeau-led government is under political compulsion to not antagonize their coalition partners.
What are the Challenges in the Relations between the two countries?
- Khalistani separatist factor- It is the major bone of contention between India and Canada. The Canadian government’s Policy of balancing the Sikh assertions and its relations with India, has jeopardised the India Canada Relations.
- Attacks on Indian Consulates and Indian Diaspora- The attacks on Non-Sikh Indian Diaspora, Indian Consulates and Temples have further strained the India Canada Relations.
- Trade Challenges-Structural impediments such as complex labour laws, market protectionism, and bureaucratic regulations have been roadblocks for Indo-Canadian trade relations. Bilateral agreements, such as the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (BIPPA), have been in negotiation for long time and no progress has been reached by both the countries.
- Before the G20 summit, the Canadian government independently halted trade negotiations with India. All these have contributed to low Indo-Canadian trade.
- Both India and Canada should prioritize open and constructive diplomatic dialogue to address current tensions.
- Engaging in high-level talks can help in better understanding each other’s concerns and finding common ground on contentious issues.
- There is a need to develop anew framework of cooperation that is more pragmatic and that emphasises on mutually beneficial areas, such as trade, energy, infrastructure and transport, for better Indo-Canadian relations.