Security Concerns and Accusations Surrounding Sikh Activist’s Murder Deepen Dispute
Ottawa – POLITICS – Diplomatic tensions between Canada and India have reached a new high as Canada announces plans to reduce the number of diplomats stationed in India due to escalating security concerns. Meanwhile, the Indian government appears to have suspended visa services for Canadians, marking a significant development in the ongoing dispute fuelled by allegations surrounding the murder of a Sikh activist.
Security Threats and Diplomatic Measures
Global Affairs Canada revealed that some of its diplomats in India have received threats via social media platforms. This disturbing trend comes amidst a growing backlash within India following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claims that Indian government agents were involved in the assassination of a prominent Sikh leader on Canadian soil. The victim, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, had been advocating for an independent Sikh homeland in India. New Delhi has vehemently denied any involvement and dismissed Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd.”
“In the light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats,” Global Affairs Canada stated in a press release on Thursday. “Out of an abundance of caution, we have decided to temporarily adjust staff presence in India.”
Visa Services Suspended
In a separate development, BLS International, the organization responsible for handling India visa applications in Canada, issued an online notice announcing the indefinite suspension of visa services starting from September 21. The suspension was attributed to “operational reasons.”
Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi provided insight into this decision, citing security threats faced by Indian high commissions and consulates in Canada. Bagchi explained that these threats disrupted their normal operations, rendering them temporarily unable to process visa applications. He added that India would assess the situation regularly before making any changes.
Demand for Diplomatic Parity
India has also communicated its expectation that Canada should reduce its diplomatic presence in New Delhi, emphasizing the need for parity between the two nations. This demand comes amid India’s long-standing allegations that Canada serves as a haven for Sikh separatists and has not done enough to safeguard Indian missions and consulates from protests organized by these groups.
Nationalist Sentiments and Political Implications
The dispute has fuelled nationalist sentiments within India, prompting calls to boycott Canadian brands like Tim Hortons and McCain on social media. Indian media has adopted a nationalist stance, questioning the credibility of Trudeau’s claims and demanding the release of evidence. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has yet to address Trudeau’s accusations directly, is viewed by analysts as potentially benefiting from the diplomatic spat ahead of next year’s elections, where he seeks a third term in power.
Modi’s party has pursued a Hindu nationalist agenda, and the government maintains a firm stance against secessionist Sikh groups, aligning well with the preferences of Indian voters. During a recent briefing, Bagchi asserted that Canada is acquiring a “growing reputation” as a haven for religious extremists and emphasized the need for Canada to consider its international reputation.