India and Canada have expelled each other’s top diplomats in a tit-for-tat move that has further strained the already tense relations between the two countries. The diplomatic row was triggered by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of India’s involvement in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada. Here is a timeline of the events that led to this situation:
Indian MEA Expelled Canadian Diplomat:
18 June 2023: Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force, a banned militant group that seeks an independent Sikh homeland in India, is shot dead outside a Gurdwara in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver. Nijjar was designated as a “terrorist” by India in July 2020 and was wanted for several attacks in India, including the 2007 Shingar cinema blast in Ludhiana that killed six people.
26 June 2023: Hardeep Singh Nijjar is shot dead in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada.
18 September 2023: Trudeau makes an emergency statement in the House of Commons, saying that Canadian security agencies are “actively pursuing credible allegations” of a “potential link” between Indian government agents and Nijjar’s death. He says that Canada sees this “possible breach of sovereignty” as “completely unacceptable” and that his government has expelled the head of the Indian intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Canada over the issue.
19 September 2023: India rejects Trudeau’s statement as “absurd and motivated” and says that such allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India also summons the High Commissioner of Canada to India, Cameron MacKay, and informs him about the decision to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India. The diplomat, identified as Olivier Sylvestere, the Canadian intelligence agency’s station chief in New Delhi, is asked to leave India within the next five days234.
20 September 2023: The diplomatic spat between India and Canada escalates further as both countries put their trade talks on hold. The two sides were expected to resume negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) later this month, but sources say that the talks have been postponed indefinitely due to the current situation5. The trade ties between India and Canada have been sluggish for years, with bilateral trade amounting to only $8.4 billion in 2020-21.
The latest developments have marked a new low in the relations between India and Canada, which have been deteriorating since Trudeau came to power in 2015. The Canadian prime minister has been accused of pandering to the Sikh vote bank in Canada, which constitutes about 1.4% of the population, by supporting pro-Khalistan elements and ignoring India’s concerns over cross-border terrorism. Trudeau’s visit to India in February 2018 was marred by controversy when it was revealed that a convicted Khalistani terrorist, Jaspal Atwal, was invited to official events with Trudeau and his family. The visit also failed to produce any significant outcomes on trade or security cooperation.
Why does the Canadian Government back Khalistanis?
India and Canada share common values of democracy, pluralism and multiculturalism, and have potential for greater collaboration on various fields such as energy, education, innovation and climate change. However, the recent diplomatic row has cast a shadow over the prospects of enhancing bilateral ties and resolving outstanding issues. It remains to be seen how the two countries will overcome this crisis and restore mutual trust and confidence.
The expulsion of the top Canadian diplomat from India is a serious diplomatic incident. It is also a sign of the deteriorating relations between the two countries.
India has been accusing Canada of supporting Khalistani separatists for many years. Canada has also been critical of India’s human rights record. The tensions between the two countries have been exacerbated in recent years by the rise of anti-Hindu hate crimes in Canada.
The expulsion of the top Canadian diplomat is a clear signal from India that it is willing to take tough measures to protect its interests. It is also a warning to Canada that it should not interfere in India’s internal affairs.
It remains to be seen how Canada will respond to the expulsion of its diplomat. However, it is clear that the relations between the two countries are at a low point.
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