India-Canada Relations In ‘Deep Crisis’, No Sooner Thaw Expected In Relations: Experts

The relations between India and Canada have worsened after the latter alleged that Indian agents may have been involved in the murder of a Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Trudeau on Hardeep Singh Nijjars killing

The experts and officials have predicted that India Canada diplomatic relations are in “deep crisis” and could turn “worst ever” after each side adopted maximalist positions. 

India recently decided to partially restore visa services, weeks after suspending them in anger at Ottawa's claim that Indian agents may have been involved in the murder of a Khalistani terrorist from Punjab.

Mutual recriminations since that accusation, which India strongly denies, have strained ties between the two countries - close for almost a century and with extensive links through the Sikh community - to their worst in memory.

“And while India's relaxation on visas may have raised some expectations of improved relations, it was not a breakthrough, as neither side has much incentive to hasten a return to normalcy, officials and experts in both countries said,” reported Reuters.

It added: “Neither New Delhi nor Ottawa looks likely to take dramatic steps to reconcile soon as Canada's murder investigation proceeds and Prime Minister Narendra Modi prepares for Indian national elections by May.”

"The relationship is in deep crisis, perhaps its worst ever," the report quoted Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington. 

"Each side may have a strong interest in the crisis not getting completely out of control, but that doesn't mean there are strong incentives to resolve the crisis," the report quoted him as having said.

Ajay Bisaria, India's ambassador to Canada from 2020 to 2022, said the relationship is in a "de-escalation phase" following "quiet diplomacy", the report mentioned.

The report said “even with the reprieve, the visa curbs are expected to hinder the movement of tens of thousands of Indians and people of Indian origin who live in Canada or plan to study there.”

“Although both governments have spared business and trade links, the acrimony has delayed discussions on a free-trade deal and threatens Group of Seven member Canada's Indo-Pacific plans, where New Delhi is critical to efforts to check an increasingly assertive China,” it said.

On September 18 Canadian PM Justin Trudeau said Canada was "actively pursuing credible allegations" linking Indian government agents to the June killing in a Vancouver suburb of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45. 

Canada expelled India's intelligence chief in Ottawa. India quickly responded by halting 13 categories of visas for Canadians and cutting Canada's diplomatic presence in India, a move Ottawa said violated the Vienna Conventions.

India-Canada tensions over Sikh separatism have haunted the relationship since the 1980s. PM Modi is unlikely to be seen backing down, especially before the elections.

The report quoting Michael Bociurkiw, a foreign policy expert at the Atlantic Council, said "a pause" was needed "for cooler heads to prevail and to get the relationship back on track".

"But it is not going to happen overnight. It will take time," he said.

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