Deepening ebb in India-Canada relations

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Deepening ebb in India-Canada relations

Friday, 22 September 2023 | Debashis Jena

Deepening ebb in India-Canada relations

Ottawa expelled a top Indian diplomat allegedly for extrajudicial killing even as India denies its involvement in the incident, writes Debashis Jena

In a shocking turn of after the successful completion of G20 events in Delhi, the Canadian government has expelled a high-ranking Indian diplomat for alleged involvement in an "extrajudicial killing". This move has strained diplomatic relations between Ottawa and New Delhi, raising concerns about human rights and international cooperation. The expelled Indian diplomat, whose identity has not been officially disclosed, was reportedly working at the Indian High Commission in Ottawa. According to Canadian sources, authorities took this drastic step after gathering substantial evidence suggesting the diplomat's involvement in an extr judicial killing in India.

The allegations stem from an incident that occurred in Canada on 18 June 2023; where a pro-Khalistani sympathizer Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead with multiple gunshot wounds and declared dead by Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) after shooting at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Canada's Surrey.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar – a pro-Khalistani activist was sought by the Indian government for his alleged involvement in the killing of a Hindu priest in the Indian state of Punjab in the year 2021. He was involved in anti-India activities like regulating and funding the khalistan movement to create a ruckus in India. He also used social media as a propaganda tool to propagate malicious propaganda against India.

Responding to Ottawa's move on the issue, MEA Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi issued an official statement rejecting all the allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Foreign Minister. "We have seen and rejected the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in Parliament, as also the statement by the Canadian Foreign Minister.”

Indeed, the allegations of the Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated. India is a democratic country with a strong commitment to the rule of law. India has never supported any extra-judicial killing on its soil or outside. Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern. Perhaps this is a Canadian Government’s plank to put under wraps its inability to deal with its homegrown extremism.

That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new. The Government of Canada must take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil.

The Ministry of External Affairs, India summoned the High Commission of Canada in India to inform him about the decision by the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India. Olivier Sylvestre, the Canadian diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days. Arindam Bagchi, the MEA spokesperson in his official statement said, "The High Commissioner of Canada to India was summoned and informed about the decision of the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India. The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days.” The decision reflects the Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities. The turn of events is though highly deplorable as two strong democratic countries are at loggerheads with each other and if the damage control is not initiated by the two countries it could turn into a full-blown diplomatic crisis, straining the relations between the two countries even further.

(The writer is a researcher and writes on external affairs; views expressed are personal)

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