Rama Krishna Sangem
Relations between Canada and India have worsened since recently. The situation went to the level of both the countries expelling the other’s envoys and bringing down the diplomatic cordiality. Canada even advised its citizens to follow caution if they plant visiting India. India retaliated in the same coin. This was unthinkable a few days ago, as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau came to New Delhi for G-20 summit on September 8-10.
Canada is a developed country and a member of rich nations club of G-7. Though its population is just around four crore, area wise, it is the second largest in the world. One of the major producers of gas and abundant natural resources. In view of its English speaking people and British colonial roots, Canada has strong and close ties with the US, the UK and France (French too colonized its parts).
All the more Canada is a leading and one of the oldest democracies in the world. It attained freedom from the British almost the same period of the US – around 1860s. Canada is also a preferred destination (after America) for many Indians who love to migrate abroad. In view of all these facts, Canada is should be a natural ally of India in the present circumstances. But, unfortunately, Canada turned hostile to India now.
The problem is Trudeau
The problem is not with Canada as such, but with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. 52 year old Trudeau, in fact is a darling of many Indians till recently as we saw his videos walking across shopping malls in his country and shaking hands and posing for selfies with one and all. He is the son of former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau and is an active member of his Liberal Party.
Trudeau was elected as PM of Canada first time, in 2015 and is in the office till now. First time he got majority for his Liberal Party, but in 2021 elections, he got just 158 MPs in a House of Commons of 338 seats. So, Trudeau has to depend on the New Democratic Party of Jagmeet Singh Jimmy Dhaliwal, who has 25 MPs. This NDP is founded in 1961 by Jimmy who is a left of the centre leanings.
NDP directly or indirectly supports the cause of Sikhs and entertains radical elements like pro-Khalistani groups. Ever since Trudeau has started depending on NDP he has begun openly espousing the cause of Sikhs and turned soft on pro-Khalistani groups. Trudeau’s first visit to India in 2016 was mired in a controversy as he supported farmers protesting the Modi government’s farm laws. The reason is most of the farmers are from Punjab.
Basically, Liberal Party believes in freedom of expression and forms of protest, to the maximum limits. All protests and demonstrations by pro-Khalistani gorups in Canada, particularly those of in front of Indian embassies are tolerated by Trudeau government. India objects to them, but Trudeau ignores. The protests gradually reached the level of attacks on Indian diplomats and embassies.
The recent killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 48 year old Khalistani activist outside a place of worship in July has become an issue in Canada, as NDP took it up seriously. Last week, while making a statement in Canadian parliament, Trudeau said that a potential link points to involvement of Indian secret services agents in Nijjar’s killing. The PM ordered for expulsion of an Indian official from Canada.
Naturally, this triggered a war of words and actions between both the countries. India stopped issuing visas from Canada and much more might come in the coming days. Trudeau formally complained to US President Biden and UK PM Sunak over the situation. India suspects Trudeau is influenced by pro-Khalistani groups which are funded and led by Pakistani ISI and some Chinese elements.
So, the problem is Trudeau’s Liberal Party ideology and his weakness to depend on Khalistan sympathetic NDP, Sikhs are around 7.5 lakh, close to 2.2 per cent of Canada population. Canada welcomes immigrants with a liberal policy, and there is a huge migration from Punjab since 1980s. A survey report says, as many as 3 lakh Sikhs have migrated from Punjab to Canada only after 1980s. Sikhs are upper middle class people and influential in Canada politics.
As long as Trudeau has to depend on NDP for his political survival, till next elections in 2025, the situation remains the same. Or otherwise, Trudeau has to change his course and offer to work with India to contain Khalistani groups. Which comes first and what happens next is the question before all. Some say, President Biden will intervene and patch up the differences between India and Canada, others say, we’ll have to wait till next elections in Canada in 2025.