Canada Needs to See India – Not Just the Diaspora


07:23 PM

1 min read
Canada Needs to See India – Not Just the Diaspora Blog Image

Why in News?

  • Canadian PM’s statement in the Canadian parliament alleging that Indian agents killed Pro-Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar has caused India-Canada relations to plunge to a fresh low.
  • The reconciliation will now require both sides to have a serious, open, and layered political dialogue over the role of Canada’s Indian diaspora, their politicisation, and its effects on Canada-India relations.


Recent Events Leading to the Current Stand-off

  • Death of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) Chief
    • Hardeep Singh Nijjar, wanted by the Indian government, was killed in a shooting in June this year.He was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey.
    • In 2022, the National Investigation Agency (NIA) declared a Rs 10 lakh reward on Nijjar.
    • This was after he was accused of conspiring to kill a Hindu priest in Punjab's Jalandhar.
  • Issue Raised on the Sidelines of G20 Summit
    • On the sidelines the G20 Summit in Delhi, Canadian PM and the Indian PM had discussed Khalistani extremism.
    • Canadian PM also raised the issue of foreign interference in this murder and asked India for cooperation in the investigation.
    • On the other hand, during the meeting, the Indian PM had expressed his deep concerns to Canadian PM about the ongoing anti-India activities being carried out by extremist elements in Canada.
  • Canadian PM’s Statement in Canadian Parliament and Expulsion of Diplomats
    • Canada's PM accused "agents of the Indian government" in the killing of prominent Khalistani leader. 
    • Canadian government did not stop at just accusations and expelled the top Indian diplomat, 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.


A Timeline of Ups and Downs in Canada-India Relations in Last 50 Years

  • Bonhomie During the Cold War: During the Cold War, bonhomie developed between Ottawa and New Delhi due to their shared commonwealth status and convergent views on the importance of the UN, multilateralism, and advancing global development.
  • Differences on Korean War and Indian Nuclear Programme: Differences over Cold War crises in Korea, Hungary, and Vietnam strained the relationship. India’s nuclear programme tested ties further.
  • Revival of Relationship
    • With limited prospects for trade or security relations, there was no basis for meaningful diplomatic engagement.
    • In the 1980s, Ottawa’s interest in India was rekindled by rising Indian immigration.
    • Much work has gone into reviving the relationship from its lowest in 1998, following Ottawa’s rejection of India’s nuclear power status.
    • Investment and trade form the heart of the relationship now, with considerable scope for growth.
    • The bilateral relationship isheld hostage by specific diaspora elements that harbour a deep hatred toward India,dislikeIndia’s territorial unity and strive to balkanise it.


How Canada is Responsible for Deteriorating India-Canada Relations?

  • Canada’s Reluctance to Act Against Anti-India Activities in Canada
    • Canadian PM’s references to the rule of law are myopic as it ignores consideration of the effects Nijjar and his separatist clan had through their activities in Canada and India.
    • Some of their attempts to propagate violence against Indian diplomats were largely ignored.
    • Some of them continue vandalising places of worship in Canada and casually disregarded Indian lawmaking processes through the farmer protests last summer in India.
    • These concerns still exist and are possibly heightened. Therefore, Canadian PM’s “rule of law” pronouncements sound hollow when he highlights the plight of Khalistani activists and not those they have harmed.
  • Appeasement of Diaspora Politics
    • Canadian present government’s sympathy to Khalistani groups and other diaspora elements has characterised its foreign policy.
    • Indeed, both the Liberals and the Conservatives have catered to diaspora groups that utilize Canadian soil to conduct operations that endanger the interests and security of other countries, particularly India.


Importance and Challenges of Diaspora Engagement for India

  • Important to Indian Economy and Strategic Relations
    • Diaspora engagement has intensified under the current Indian government with efforts made to compel them to invest in India’s economic development.
    • Wealthy NRIs are key vectors of remittances, networks, and ideas into India.
    • Undoubtedly, the diaspora’s cultivation and support have advanced India’s strategic ties with the US and propelled national projects like Make in India and Digital India.
    • Yet, there is another aspect to this engagement that requires deft handling and management.
  • Challenges
    • The views of pro-Khalistan groups have annoyed the Indian government. No stranger to separatist politics, India has disliked transnational currents that question its territorial integrity or criticise its treatment of ethnic minorities.
    • Those currents are only accelerating, creating a major problem for Indian foreign policy that has had a strategic view of most diaspora groups and what they bring to India. 
    • Increasingly, Indian PM’s foreign visits are met by civil society groups clamouring for human rights.
    • Recent pro-Khalistan protests in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia have become resentful and violent. 


How India Should Recalibrate its Diaspora Engagement?

  • Digital technologies have transformed how Indian immigrants abroad engage with their kin in terms of political outlook, linguistic choices, and ideological affinity.
  • Ideas related to these matters spread online could have repercussions across borders as witnessed in the Khalistani case.
  • The risks of diaspora groups are magnified and amplified in the social media age.
  • India must refrain from relying on clichés that highlight engaging and deploying the Indian diaspora to serve national interests.
  • Some groups actively work against the interests of the Indian state and foreign policy.


Ways to Mend India-Canada Relations

  • Canada Needs to Engage India Not Diaspora Politics
    • The real culprit of strained relations between India and Canada is a toxic form of diaspora politics that involves Canadian political parties engaging with and appeasing groupsthat are involved in anti-India activities.
    • This type of diaspora politics has kept Canadian governments from limiting national security and foreign policy priorities to meet short-term electoral demands, and it must change.
    • Diaspora politics cannot be the lens through which Ottawa perceives New Delhi and engages with it.
  • A Political Compact
    • Without India, Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy is obsolete. Both countries share interests in defending the international order, balancing China’s rise, cooperating on issues like climate change, global health, misuse of digital technologies, etc.
    • However, dealing with these difficulties necessitates a political agreement that addresses how both countries regard Canada's Indian diaspora as well as reducing its worst impulses, particularly those fuelling India's separatist agenda.



  • Without addressing India's concerns and interacting directly with India, the distance between Ottawa and Delhi will be measured not only by geography but also by mindset.


Q1) What is the Khalistan Movement?

The Khalistan movement is a fight for a separate, sovereign Sikh state in present day Punjab (both India and Pakistan). The movement was crushed in India following Operation Blue Star (1984) and Operation Black Thunder (1986 and 1988). The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where officials see it and its affiliated groups as a national security threat.


Q2) How will allegations on India impact the trade ties between India and Canada?

Bilateral trade between India and Canada has seen significant growth in recent years, reaching $8.16 billion in 2022-23. India's exports ($4.1 billion) to Canada include pharmaceuticals, gems and jewellery, textiles, and machinery, while Canada's exports to India ($4.06 billion) include pulses, timber, pulp and paper, and mining products. Experts believe tensions between India and Canada are unlikely to impact trade and investments between the two countries as economic ties are driven by commercial considerations.


Source: The Indian Express