India and Canada, two nations known for their democratic ideals and shared colonial history, are currently experiencing a low ebb in their bilateral relations, reports CNN. The center of the storm: accusations surrounding the assassination of a Sikh separatist activist in Canada and the subsequent fallout.
"Safe Haven for Terrorists"
Recent events reached a climax when India labeled Canada a “safe haven for terrorists,” a severe accusation following Canada’s suspension of visas for Indian citizens. The move by Canada was in response to allegations from Ottawa hinting at New Delhi's potential involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist activist.
Nijjar was tragically gunned down by two unidentified individuals in Surrey, British Columbia in June. Reacting to the suspension, India's foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi did not mince words. He emphasized that if any nation needed to introspect about "reputational issues and reputational damage," it would be Canada, pointing to its alleged image as a refuge for "terrorists, extremists, and organized crime." Bagchi's assertion is indicative of the Indian establishment's increasing exasperation with Canada, particularly concerning what it perceives as inadequate security measures for its diplomats.
"The issue is of incitement of violence, the inaction by the Canadian authorities, the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulates," he clarified.
Diplomatic Strain: A New Low?
The diplomatic strain between the two nations isn't a mere war of words.
Concrete steps have been taken, with India temporarily halting the issuance of visas to Canadian citizens, citing “security threats” against its diplomats in the country. The genesis of this strain can be traced back to the contentious statement by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The Canadian head of state openly alluded to India's potential role in the killing of Nijjar, further fueling tensions. The hope is for a resolution that allows both countries to rebuild trust and resume a relationship rooted in shared values and mutual respect.