Will India-Canada row impact India’s ties with West? Here’s what experts say

Will India-Canada row impact India’s ties with West? Here’s what experts say

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  • September 19, 2023
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India-Canada row: The strained relations between India and Canada took a sharp downward turn on Tuesday as Canada’s PM Justin Trudeau accused “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of prominent Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The Sikh separatist leader was shot dead by unidentified shooters in June outside a Gurudwara in Canada’s Surrey. The Indian government rejected the allegations and called them “absurd” and “motivated”.

But, the Canadian government didn’t stop at just accusations as they expelled the top Indian diplomat Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) from Canada. In a tit-for-tat move, the Government of India also summoned the High Commissioner of Canada to India and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat from India. Unlike the Canadian side, India didn’t name the diplomat but as per people with knowledge of the matter, it is Canadian intelligence agency station chief Olivier Sylvestere.

The world has also started reacting to the whole fiasco with the United States and Australia expressing concerns about the allegations while Britain called it “serious allegations.” “The US was deeply concerned about the allegations disclosed by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said.

“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” the statement added.

“Australia is deeply concerned by these allegations and notes ongoing investigations into this matter,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Australia believes all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law.”

Will the India-Canada row impact India’s ties with the West

With the growing concerns around the allegations by Canada and the reactions from the world, questions started arising if the incident would have any impact on India’s relations with Western countries which seem to be going great as seen in the recent G20 Summit hosted by India.

The experts were almost unanimous in saying that, the India-Canada row and purely bilateral and will not find much traction outside Canada. “It’s very unlikely that India’s ties with the wider West are going to be impacted. First of all, this is largely an India-Canada bilateral matter and India is raising this about [Justin] Trudeau’s government not being responsive or sensitive to India’s concerns on Sikh extremism for quite some time, so the tensions were simmering under the surface. Justin Trudeau seems to have approached this issue from a very personal vantage point where he is now coming out and accusing India of things when his internal investigation is not complete. I think it has more to do with Canada’s domestic politics rather than what India may or may not have done and I don’t think this would impact India’s ties with the West,” Professor Harsh V. Pant is Vice President of studies and Foreign Policy at Observer Research Foundation said.

“Diplomacy doesn’t get very much affected on issues like this unless the issue itself becomes so big that it can dwarf the positive relationship built between the nation-states. Yes, issues like these do arise from time to time in a nation’s history which are dealt with in the diplomatic realm,” Dr. Martand Jha, Doctoral Fellow at Russian and Central Asian Studies, School of International Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University said.

“Personally, I don’t think that issues like this have crossed the threshold of diplomatic ties which can derail the equations between the said countries,” he added.

“The relationship from here onwards will further worsen. It is for sure that Canada is not looking at a long-term relationship with India sincerely. It is not looking at the Indian market nor the Indian labor force or trade. Canada’s thinking that it can live in isolation is flawed and short-sighted,” Dr. Rishi Gupta, Research Fellow, at Asia Society Policy Institute said.

“The US and Australia are assessing the situation based on what Canada is accusing but I don’t see it impacting India’s ties with them,” he added.


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Updated: 19 Sep 2023, 06:46 PM IST

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