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Canada Remains Committed to Strengthening Ties with India Amid Diplomatic Strain, Trudeau Affirms

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has emphasized his nation’s commitment to forging closer relations with India, despite the ongoing diplomatic dispute between the two countries. This statement comes amid a period of strained ties.

Tensions between Canada and India escalated following Mr. Trudeau’s announcement on September 19th that Canada was investigating credible allegations implicating India in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader. Delhi swiftly dismissed these claims as “absurd.” The murder in question was that of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was killed outside a temple in Canada in June.

Addressing the situation on Thursday, Prime Minister Trudeau stressed the importance of engaging constructively and earnestly with India. He highlighted India’s role as a burgeoning economic powerhouse and a significant geopolitical actor. He further reiterated Canada’s commitment to fostering stronger ties with India, as demonstrated by its Indo-Pacific strategy introduced just last year.

While tensions came to the forefront during the G20 summit in Delhi on September 9th, with Mr. Trudeau skipping an official leaders’ dinner and a brief meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi characterized by some experts as “frosty,” the Canadian Prime Minister continued to stress the significance of relations with India.

Regarding the murder investigation, Mr. Trudeau affirmed its continuation, underscoring Canada’s commitment to the rule of law. He emphasized the need for India’s cooperation in ensuring that a comprehensive understanding of the matter is achieved.

Notably, both nations have expelled one diplomat from the other’s country in response to the escalating situation. Last week, India suspended visa services for Canadians, citing security concerns at its diplomatic missions in Canada.

The core of the diplomatic row revolves around the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and allegations of India’s involvement. India has consistently denied any role in the murder and noted that Nijjar had been designated a terrorist by Delhi in 2020—a claim vehemently refuted by his supporters. Additionally, India has firmly responded to demands by Sikh separatists in Western countries, particularly for the establishment of Khalistan, a separate Sikh homeland.

The dispute between Canada and India, traditionally close allies for decades, has also placed Western countries in a challenging position. The United States, United Kingdom, and Australia have called on Delhi to cooperate in the investigation but have refrained from directly criticizing India, considering it a crucial counterbalance to China’s ascent in Asia.

Prime Minister Trudeau indicated that the United States had assured him that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would raise the allegations during his meeting with his Indian counterpart, S. Jaishankar, in Washington. While the foreign ministers convened on Thursday, they did not mention Canada in their press conference.