Trudeau’s controversial Khalistan claims impact India-Canada relations


This week started on an acrimonious note as the relations between India and Canada took an ugly turn due to obnoxious political ambitions of the Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau (read: vote bank politics) and continued on the same pitch. On the other hand, worsening economic crisis in Germany added to this shady week in global politics.

Germany’s economic crisis and its causes
Once known as a global economic power, Germany is going through an economic crisis due to Russia-Ukraine war. I had written in one of my precious columns that the largest economy of Europe has entered in to recession. Its previous high dependency on Russia for oil and gas supply indeed led the nation to the recession. Now, if the situation worsens, it will impact other nations of the Europe as well. Complex interdependence is what these nations ignored; it seems!
And this is what Trudeau also missed upon! After impeccably hosting G-20 summit in New Delhi, India was hoping to move in a positive direction of mutual collaboration and development based on cooperation. But, while the other nations were praising India for its unparalleled contribution to global peace, security and green development, Canadian PM was busy in making his voting bank plans that impacted India-Canada relations negatively. So much so that after a week of negative developments, India has today temporarily suspended visa services for Canadians.

The case of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
How this all started? Well, we all know that there is a group of separatists of Indian origin in Canada who not only openly support Khalistan movement in India, they also fund the movement sitting from Canada. Sikh diaspora in Canada has a significant say in its politics and society. India has suggested Canadian government many times that it should not promote any such people or groups that challenge national security of India. The recent brawl between India and Canada started when Trudeau, despite knowing the history of Khalistan movement in India, alleged this week that Indian government has a role in killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India rejected the claim and several diplomatic steps were taken by both India and Canada immediately. However, it is also important to understand who is Nijjar. Nijjar who was attacked and killed by some unidentified assailants on 19th June this year, Vancouver, British Columbia, was the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force and worked closely with Sikhs for Justice leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.
Nijjar was a declared terrorist by Indian government. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) of India had declared Hardeep Singh Nijjar as a terrorist under the Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act, 1967 in September 2020. The NIA also clearly mentioned Nijjar as an ‘absconder’ and had declared a cash award of Rs 10 lakh on him. Canadian PM Trudeau claimed ‘credible allegations of a potential link’ between Indian government and the killing of Nijjar (read: a Khalistani terrorist as declared by Indian government).
Then, Canadian government expelled a top Indian diplomat amid probe into the killing of pro-Khalistan terrorist Nijjar. Despite clear statements from the concerned authorities of Indian government that it has no role in this entire incident, Trudeau continued with spitting venom on India. India also asked one of the key Canadian diplomats to leave the country within five days as its response. Trudeau also contacted the five eyes intelligence alliance that includes the UK, US, Australia, New Zealand and Canada itself to get their support against India, but so far they have maintained a strategic neutrality over the issue.

Trudeau’s political calculations and consequences
Now the question arises why Trudeau is continuously supporting Khalistani activists in Canada and Khalistan movement? Why he preferred to deteriorate relations between India and Canada instead of supporting India in ensuring its national security?
Well, the answer lies in the political ambitions of Trudeau. There are many research surveys and reports that show that Trudeau’s popularity is declining, and he has a huge challenge of gathering support from various parties and leaders to maintain his political position and save his minority government. It seems Trudeau has a habit of inviting problems for himself. First, he called for early elections in Canada in 2021 that resulted in a minority government for Trudeau. At this juncture, Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the New Democratic Party helped Trudeau with his won seats, and played a significant role in his government formation. His support matters a lot to Trudeau.
Jagmeet Singh is an open Khalistan supporter and critic of Indian government. It seems Trudeau tried to win the trust of Singh and the associated separatist leaders by making imprudent (read: foolish) statements against Indian government. This time, it backfired. Canada will certainly suffer a big time as the trade relations between India and Canada have already gone for a toss. Trudeau forgot that this is new India who will not take any false allegation or threat on its national security. Also, he should not forget that most of the Indian diaspora in Canada comprises skilled, peace-loving people and even a majority of Sikh community settled in Canada loves their motherland.
Trudeau needs to learn that someone of his stature should not look at smaller, mean political goals. More importantly, one also should not put relations on stake for vote bank politics at least. India knows well how to tackle such situations, but I hope Trudeau gets a befitting reply from his people soon as there is no good or bad terrorism!

The author is Professor, School of International Studies, JNU