The World Today for October 04, 2023


Looking Outward


Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar recently said that his government was open to investigating any information that Canadian officials might produce in relation to the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver in June.

Jaishankar’s announcement came more than a week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament in Ottawa that Canadian intelligence suspected the Indian government of involvement in the assassination. As Reuters reported, Indian officials were furious, denied the allegations,  and in response suspended new visas for Canadians. They also asked Trudeau to pull 41 diplomats from India for their own safety as anti-Canadian sentiment swept through the subcontinent, the Financial Times reported.

“A mood of obstinance has echoed across India after the allegations from Canada,” said a caption for a photo in the Guardian depicting Indian men burning the Canadian flag. The men wear orange-yellow scarves that could be associated with the far-right Hindutva movement, an important part of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s political base, as CNN explained.

Jaishankar claimed that Sikh activists like Nijjar, who seek to carve a new, sovereign Sikh-majority country out of India’s Punjab state called Khalistan, also run criminal organizations in Canada. But while they agree on designating groups like al Qaeda or the Islamic State as terrorists, India has failed to persuade the Canadian and other Western governments that Nijjar and others like him are dangerous, wrote National Public Radio.

The Sikh insurgency peaked in the 1980s in Punjab, the community’s homeland. The Indian military quelled the movement. Today, reported the BBC, the conflict has “little resonance” in India, but is still a vivid memory in Sikh diaspora communities in Australia, the United Kingdom, and Canada. Members of the Canadian community have expressed their support for Trudeau, Al Jazeera noted.

Trudeau has sought to mend the rift, saying that India is an important partner. But the crisis in relations between these two major democracies has exposed Canada’s weak hand, argued Danielle Goldfarb, a global fellow at the Wilson Center’s Canada Institute.

If Modi did order the killing of someone on Canadian soil, Goldfarb wrote, he did so as the emboldened leader of a country whose geopolitical importance is growing, especially as a potential American ally and counterweight to China. The US and the rest of the West, furthermore, have been largely silent during the crisis, added Foreign Policy magazine, suggesting that they either don’t want to harm their new ties with India – or can tolerate undermining relations with Canada.

These are the growing pains as the world’s largest democracy turns outward.

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