Canada-India relations 2023-

Written by  //  May 7, 2024  //  Canada, India  //  Comments Off on Canada-India relations 2023-

Trudeau forced to accept meeting about Sikh activists in order to land in Punjab during 2018 trip
By Robert Fife, Nancy Macdonald, Greg Mercer
(Globe & Mail) … During the meeting, India’s minister for the Punjab, Captain Amarinder Singh, handed Mr. Trudeau and then-defence minister Harjit Sajjan a dossier containing the names of about 10 Sikh activists whose activities the Indian government wanted curtailed, the source said.
… During the 2018 trip, Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Sajjan had plans to travel to the northwestern state of Punjab, home to the majority of Sikhs. They were told they would not be able to land in the state unless they took the meeting. Mr. Trudeau and Mr. Sajjan wanted to avoid Capt. Singh because he had earlier described Mr. Sajjan’s father as a terrorist owing to the elder Sajjan’s previous position leading the World Sikh Organization, the source said. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the source, who was not authorized to discuss the matter.
The meeting went ahead and Capt. Singh presented the dossier. All on the list, like Mr. Nijjar, were known for promoting the creation of a Sikh homeland carved out of the Punjab, an area Sikhs would call Khalistan.
The discussion with Capt. Singh was “not pleasant,” said the source. Canadian government officials assured the Indians they would look at the list presented to Mr. Sajjan, one that had previously been shared with the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.
… Dan Stanton, a former executive manager at CSIS, said it’s very difficult to believe India provided Canada with credible evidence about alleged Sikh militants on home soil and Ottawa did nothing about it. Instead, he’s skeptical of the information coming from the Indian spy service.
“When you look at their security intelligence services and the reliability of their information, with the Indians, it’s always been problematic,” said Mr. Stanton, who worked on Sikh extremism in the 1990s but confirmed he hasn’t seen the 2018 dossier.
“The idea that this man could be a terrorist according to Canadian legal standards, and just be walking around, is absurd. It sounds to me the information India would have provided wouldn’t have passed muster and met the threshold for the RCMP to arrest this fellow and charge him.”
India’s government has a history of inflating the threat of the Khalistan movement for political purposes, and Mr. Nijjar’s case feels no different, he said.

3 May
Canada arrests alleged hit squad members in killing of Sikh separatist
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told lawmakers last year that authorities were pursuing “credible allegations” the Indian government was behind the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
(WaPo) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government reacted with fury to Trudeau’s announcement in September, calling it “motivated and absurd.” The incident sent relations between Ottawa and New Delhi tumbling to a new low at a time when Canada and its allies had been trying to court India as a diplomatic and trade counterweight to China.
Canada expelled the station chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s spy agency, in Ottawa. India expelled a Canadian diplomat in retaliation. Trade talks between the two countries were suspended, and Canada withdrew 41 diplomats from India after New Delhi threatened to revoke their diplomatic status.
Police make arrests in killing of B.C. Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Months-long investigation into politically charged killing also probes links to other cases: sources
(CBC) Canadian police have arrested members of an alleged hit squad investigators believe was tasked by the government of India with killing prominent Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C. last June, CBC News has learned.
Sources close to the investigation also told CBC News that police are actively investigating possible links to three additional murders in Canada, including the shooting death of an 11-year-old boy in Edmonton.
Members of the hit squad are alleged to have played different roles as shooters, drivers and spotters on the day Nijjar was killed at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, according to the sources.
Sources said investigators identified the alleged hit squad members in Canada some months ago and have been keeping them under tight surveillance.
Kamalpreet Singh, Karanpreet Singh and Karan Brar face first-degree murder and conspiracy charges in the Nijjar case, according to documents filed in a Surrey court Friday. The charges have not been tested in court.

29 April
An assassination plot on American soil reveals a darker side of Modi’s India
By Greg Miller, Gerry Shih and Ellen Nakashima
Note: India’s assassination plots in the United States and Canada are part of an expanding wave of aggression against dissident groups seeking protection in other countries. Their home governments are increasingly willing to disregard the sovereignty of those nations and send agents across borders to subdue political enemies.
(WaPo) This examination of Indian assassination plots in North America, and [India’s intelligence service’s Research and Analysis Wing] RAW’s increasingly aggressive global posture, is based on interviews with more than three dozen current and former senior officials in the United States, India, Canada, Britain, Germany and Australia

2023

20 December
India’s Modi says he will ‘look into’ assassination claims if he is provided with evidence
(Globe & Mail) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi says he would “look into” claims New Delhi was linked to two assassination plots against Sikh separatists in Canada and the United States, which have strained ties between the West and India at a time when many see the South Asian country as a potential counterbalance to China.
In an interview with the Financial Times published Wednesday, Mr. Modi said: “If someone gives us any information, we would definitely look into it.”
“If a citizen of ours has done anything good or bad, we are ready to look into it,” he told the newspaper. “Our commitment is to the rule of law.”
Last month, U.S. authorities said they had foiled a scheme to kill Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a New York-based Sikh activist with ties to Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was fatally shot earlier this year in Surrey, B.C. Ottawa says his killing was directed by agents of the Indian government.
U.S. President Joe Biden reportedly raised the plot to kill Mr. Pannun with Mr. Modi during the G20 conference in New Delhi in September. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also spoke with Mr. Modi at that event about Ottawa’s findings before he made public the accusations that India was involved in Mr. Nijjar’s killing.

11 December
CSIS chief says he learned new details of alleged plot to kill Sikh activist from U.S. indictment
Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down in B.C. in June
(CBC) The head of Canada’s spy service is addressing his agency’s handling of the shocking murder of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil for the first time since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau blamed India for Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death earlier this year.
In an interview with CBC News, Canadian Service Intelligence Service (CSIS) Director David Vigneault said he learned some details of India’s alleged assassination plot when a U.S. indictment was unsealed recently.
But he cautioned against speculating about whether that information might have saved Nijjar’s life.

3 October
The India debacle should prompt Canada to rethink the naive way we engage with the world
By David McKinnon, former Canadian diplomat who has been posted to New Delhi, Canberra, Bangkok and, most recently, Colombo, where he served as Canada’s high commissioner to Sri Lanka.
(Globe & Mail) The implosion of the Canada-India relationship, only months after our Indo-Pacific Strategy described India as a “critical partner,” is stunning. Canada’s relationship with a democratic and pluralistic India was intended, at least in part, to be a counterweight to our troubled relationship with authoritarian China. …
While the Sikh population in Canada is the largest in the world outside of India, other countries that have significant Sikh populations and active groups of Khalistan supporters – notably the U.K., Australia and U.S., – still manage to have constructive strategic bilateral relationships with India. That is essentially because those countries have developed substantial political, economic and security links to New Delhi that underscore their importance to a broader set of India’s interests.
… Canada’s lack of broader links with India means that Delhi believes it can act in a heavy-handed way on this file. Little else is at stake for the Indian government; in fact, the domestic political benefits to taking action against Canada are potentially significant for Mr. Modi.
… The credibility and reputations for both India and Canada are now at stake, but perhaps especially for us. We make a lot of assertions about our importance, but our lack of substantive commitments compared to our rhetorical flourishes on the global stage over the years has been noticed.
Canada wants private talks with India to resolve diplomatic spat
(Reuters) – Canada wants private talks with India to resolve a diplomatic dispute over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said on Tuesday, after a report said India had asked the country to withdraw 41 diplomats.
Joly urges talks after India reportedly orders dozens of Canadian diplomats to leave
Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly urged India on Tuesday to thaw frosty bilateral relations through private diplomatic talks, after New Delhi reportedly ordered two-thirds of Canadian diplomats out of the country.
India orders Canada to remove 41 diplomats from Delhi embassy
Relations between countries continue to fracture over alleged assassination of Sikh separatist in British Columbia
Hannah Ellis-Petersen, the Guardian’s south Asia correspondent.
According to officials who spoke to the Financial Times, the Indian foreign ministry has given Canada a week to repatriate two-thirds of its diplomats stationed in India, reducing the number to 21. India’s ministry of external affairs declined to comment. An official familiar with the matter confirmed the report to the Associated Press.
Timeline: Fraying India-Canada relations over Sikh separatist’s killing
(Al Jazeera) Tensions spike after Trudeau announces ‘credible allegations’ that Indian agents were involved in Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder.
India has asked Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country by more than half as ties fray after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly aired suspicions that Indian agents were involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada

28 September
Canada assassination claim sparks rare consensus in India’s polarised politics and media
News anchors, political commentators and even the opposition furiously condemn accusations India played a role in assassination of Sikh activist
(The Guardian) … Inside India, the response was defiant. The government called the allegations “absurd” and politically motivated and attempted to turn the tables, accusing Canada of being a rogue state that is a “safe haven for terrorists”.
It was a mood of obstinance that has since echoed across Indian media and politics, even as more details have emerged of the allegedly incriminating intelligence that led to Trudeau taking the unusual step of going public with the allegations.

26 September
Bob Rae says he ‘took comfort’ after Indian diplomat approached him to discuss Nijjar case
Canada’s Ambassador to the United Nations Bob Rae says his Indian counterpart pulled him aside Tuesday to discuss the case of Hardeep Singh Nijjar — a week after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are “credible allegations” linking the Indian government to his death.
Rae told CBC News India’s Permanent Representative at the UN Ruchira Kamboj approached him after he addressed the UN Tuesday and thanked him.
“She pulled me aside to say it’s important that we keep working together as the governments try to work out the situation that has to be worked on,” he said.
“I took some comfort from that. I think that there is room for diplomacy and I think we’re going to see more room as we go forward.”

24 September
Some Sikhs in India fear pro-Khalistan provocations from the Sikh diaspora could put them at risk
James Griffiths
(Globe & Mail) Advocates for a Sikh homeland want to establish an independent country called Khalistan in Punjab, a region of northern India a few hundred kilometres from New Delhi. But for many Sikhs living in the capital, the issue feels far more remote than that.
“This is something created and nurtured by people living in countries outside of India,” said Pramjit Singh, standing outside the ornate gates of the Gurdwara Bangla Sahib. As worshippers and tourists streamed into the golden-domed Sikh temple in the heart of Delhi, the taxi driver told The Globe and Mail that “Sikhs in India don’t care about Khalistan.”
His assessment of the situation echoes that of his government, which insists there is no real support for Khalistan in India, and blames foreign countries, including Canada, for harbouring extremists responsible for violence in Punjab and elsewhere.
New Delhi has long expressed frustration at Ottawa for not doing enough to rein in the Khalistan movement and refusing to extradite alleged terrorists to India.
… The families of many Canadian Sikhs left India after the violence, bringing with them memories of trauma that still shape the diaspora community’s perceptions of India – and support for Khalistan.
Those who stayed in India, however, have seen their country thrive, becoming a global political and economic power, and one in which Sikhs have played a major role. Since the 2000s, there have been Sikh Supreme Court judges, Sikh army commanders and a Sikh prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

20-23 September
U.S. Provided Canada With Intelligence on Killing of Sikh Leader
American intelligence gave assistance, but communications intercepted by Canada were more definitive in linking India to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
(NYT) In the aftermath of the killing, U.S. intelligence agencies offered their Canadian counterparts context that helped Canada conclude that India had been involved. Yet what appears to be the “smoking gun,” intercepted communications of Indian diplomats in Canada indicating involvement in the plot, was gathered by Canadian officials, allied officials said.
While Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken has called on India to cooperate with the Canadian investigation, American officials have largely tried to avoid triggering any diplomatic blowback from India. But the disclosure of the involvement of U.S. intelligence risks ensnaring Washington in the diplomatic battle between Canada and India at a time when it is keen to develop New Delhi as a closer partner.
The real reasons Canada’s relationship with India is broken
Omer Aziz, a former foreign policy adviser in the government of Justin Trudeau and the author of Brown Boy: A Memoir
(Globe & Mail) In 2017, I was the Policy Advisor in the Foreign Minister’s office, working closely with the Prime Minister’s Office on India. From the first briefing, it was clear that India-Canada relations were headed in the wrong direction. There had been rumours of Indian intelligence services operating in the Canadian suburbs for years (along with others). The Indians counter-alleged that Canada was giving shelter, if not encouragement, to Khalistani extremists – supporters of an independent Sikh homeland, partitioned out of India. Sikhs in Canada, meanwhile, have likened the Indian government’s violence against them to genocide. The two sides had been talking past each other for years.
The sore point in this, which young Canadians have no memory of, is the tragic Air India bombing of 1985. Until 9/11, this was the worst act of terrorism in the sky, whereby Sikh extremists planted a bomb on an Air India flight, resulting in the deaths of 329 passengers and crew.
By the time I served in government in 2017, two things had recently – and radically – changed. First was the election of Mr. Modi in 2014, and his Hindutva politics. Mr. Modi’s ideology sees India as a primarily Hindu nation, and it stokes ethnic chauvinism and grievance against anyone who dares criticize it. Mr. Modi was a strongman, and would no longer take lecturing from Canada. …
The Nijjar slaying has cast a chill over Canada-India relations. Canada suspended talks on a trade deal with India, and Ottawa said an early October Canadian trade mission to India has been postponed. It also shines a light on the Khalistan movement and its complicated history.
‘Very messy’: India-Canada row over Sikh killing causes diplomatic shock waves
Experts say if India was behind Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death it would signal radical change in its foreign intelligence methods
(The Guardian) While any evidence Canada has on the killing is yet to be made public, “for Trudeau to have made the statement he did, given the obvious implications and backlash, would imply a really significant level of confidence in the evidence that they have”, said Walter Ladwig, a senior lecturer in international relations at King’s College London. According to sources who spoke to Canadian media, when confronted privately with the evidence, Indian officials did not deny government involvement.
Nicholas Kristof: A Murder, a Diplomatic Dust-Up and the Risk of Impunity
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada has publicly asserted that the Indian government may be responsible for murdering Nijjar — an explosive allegation that, if found to be true, should be a warning to Western countries in their dealings with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his increasingly authoritarian government. India denies the accusation and calls it “absurd.”
In his initial statement, Trudeau was cautious and spoke of “credible allegations of a potential link” between the murder and the Indian government. But in a visit to The New York Times on Thursday, Trudeau seemed completely confident that the Indian government had been involved.
While Trudeau would not share the evidence tying the crime to India, I’m betting it’s solid. … Trudeau is seeking to work with India on an investigation of the incident, but the Modi government has escalated the tension. It stopped issuing visas to Canadians and ordered Canada to cut its diplomatic staff in India.
This episode should be a warning to Western leaders, including President Biden, who have fawned over Modi. The last couple of decades of travails with Vladimir Putin should have taught us something about the difficulties of trying to reform nationalist authoritarians, or the perils of granting them impunity.
The paradox is that Nijjar doesn’t seem to have been any threat to India today. There was a violent separatist movement supporting Khalistan in the early 1980s, and I met its leaders when I was a law student backpacking through India then and sleeping on the floor of the Sikh Golden Temple to save money. But that movement has fizzled, and the dream of Khalistan seems more alive in the Sikh diaspora than in India itself.
If India is caught lying about its role in the killing, it will have damaged its international standing far more than Nijjar ever could have.

Canada has Indian diplomats’ communications in bombshell murder probe: sources
Sources tell CBC News Indian officials have not denied the existence of the intelligence in private
The Canadian government has amassed both human and signals intelligence in a months-long investigation of a Sikh activist’s death that has inflamed relations with India, sources tell CBC News.
That intelligence includes communications involving Indian officials themselves, including Indian diplomats present in Canada, say Canadian government sources.
The intelligence did not come solely from Canada. Some was provided by an unnamed ally in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance.
In a diplomatic crisis that unfolded progressively behind the scenes, Canadian officials went to India on several occasions seeking co-operation in the investigation of Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death.
Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas was in India over four days in mid-August, then again for five days this month.
… The Canadian government has not released its evidence and has suggested it could emerge during an eventual legal process.
India accuses Canada of sheltering terrorists
The dispute has poisoned Canada’s relationship with India, a growing international power, just as the United States is courting it as a potential ally.
The Indian government has fumed at Canada for — in its view — sheltering Sikh separatists, including Nijjar, whom it called a terrorist.

Trudeau’s assassination allegations put Canada’s allies in a bind
David Moscrop
We’re watching to see how the Nijjar investigation and foreign interference probe unfold, and how Canada’s allies react as new and potentially more incriminating details emerge in the days and weeks to come.
(GZERO North) … Canada’s closest allies aren’t exactly rushing to its defense. There is speculation that American intelligence contributed to Canada’s allegations, but while the Biden administration says it is “deeply concerned” about the case and wants the perpetrators to be punished, it pointedly avoided criticizing India or PM Narendra Modi. The other Five Eyes allies are showing similar caution, The U.K. in particular emphasized that its ongoing trade talks with India will proceed.
The reality, of course, is that broader geopolitical interests are shaping the response: no one wants to antagonize India at a time when New Delhi is seen as a crucial counterweight to China. Realism is alive and well in international relations!
Indo-Canadian ties, meanwhile, have been chilly for years despite some recent attempts to warm things up. Although the trade relationship has been growing, and India is the top source of Canadian immigrants (and students), New Delhi has long contended that Canada’s large Sikh diaspora community harbours separatists and terrorists. Canada, for its part, has criticized Modi’s spotty human rights record, and is including India in its new inquiry into foreign interference in Canadian politics. A 2022 effort by Trudeau to advance an Indo-Pacific strategy, meanwhile, has mostly stalled
Indian perspective
In a tit-for-tat, India expels Canadian diplomat; rejects Justin Trudeau’s charges as ‘absurd and motivated’
India summons the Canadian High Commissioner
(The Tribune India) A new chill entered India’s already-frosty ties with Ottawa after the Foreign Office here summoned the Canadian High Commissioner on Tuesday and expelled a senior diplomat in retaliation after Canada asked an Indian diplomat to leave the country and its Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that the Indian Government may have had links to the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey in June.
Following Trudeau’s address to Parliament where he made the allegation, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) vigorously rejected Trudeau’s statement and revealed that the Canadian PM had made similar allegations during his brief “pull-aside” meeting with PM Narendra Modi on the margins of the G20 on September 10 and (the allegations) “were completely rejected”.
The MEA termed Trudeau’s remarks and the statement by his Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie while expelling an Indian diplomat as “absurd and motivated”.
In fact, sources said, Indian diplomats in Canada have received threats to life and two of them were posted out from the country after separatists splashed their photos and names on posters while threatening retaliation. Videos have also emerged of Nijjer’s ideological mentor and another designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannu threatening PM Modi, NSA Ajit Doval and Union Home Minister Amit Shah while being given protective cover by the Canadian security.
Trudeau unfortunately walked into trap owing to vote-bank politics, says Capt Amarinder Singh
Capt said Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder was the result of a factional feud within the management of Surrey gurdwara

20 September
Has India killed a Sikh activist in Canada? YouTube
(Al Jazeera Inside Story) The killing of a Sikh activist in British Colombia has opened up a diplomatic rift between India and Canada.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says India may have been involved – a charge New Delhi is calling ‘absurd’.
Both sides have expelled each other’s diplomats and cooperation on trade and defence could be in jeopardy.
So can this tension be contained?
And what does this tell us about the plight of religious minorities in India?
Cleo Paskal speaks to Joyeeta Basu on Trudeau’s outburst against India (YouTube w/ transcript)

Despite strained Indian ties, Canada must stay the course on Indo-Pacific strategy
Deanna Horton, distinguished fellow at the Munk School of Global Affairs, and at the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada. She is a former Canadian diplomat.
(Globe & Mail) The image of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s plane stalled on the tarmac in Delhi was perhaps a foreshadowing of the freeze in Canada-India relations to come. The allegations of India’s involvement in the death of Canadian Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar are serious, and the actions of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government do not inspire confidence that fences will be mended any time soon. The trade relationship will no doubt take two steps back, and discussions regarding an economic partnership agreement moved to the back burner.
But just as trade and investment with China carried on during the crisis of the “two Michaels,” Canadian governments, businesses and educational institutions should continue to engage with India. The country is the cornerstone of Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, and eventually Ottawa and New Delhi will have to find a way forward – abetted perhaps by our like-minded partners in the region.

19 September
Canada, US worked closely on possible India link to Hardeep Singh Nijjar killing
(Reuters) – Canada worked “very closely” with the United States on intelligence that Indian agents had been potentially involved in the murder of a Sikh leader in British Columbia earlier this year, a senior Canadian government source said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that domestic intelligence agencies were actively pursuing credible allegations tying New Delhi’s agents to the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in June.
Trudeau on Tuesday told reporters that the case had far-reaching consequences in international law, and urged the Indian government to take the matter seriously and help Canada fully investigate the matter.
Trudeau says Canada wants answers from India over slain Sikh leader
The affair has derailed protracted talks on a potential bilateral trade deal.
A source familiar with the situation said Canada’s decisions on Sept. 1 to pause the talks and on Sept. 15 to postpone a major trade mission set for next month, had been directly linked to concerns over the murder.
A look at the Sikh separatist movement at the root of tensions between Canada and India
Some Sikhs have historically been seeking an independent Sikh homeland in northern India called Khalistan. Experts say the history of the movement is complex, emotional and evolving.
(CBC) Some key points in history for the Khalistan separatist movement in India and Canada
Experts have said there are many different points in history that play a significant role in the Khalistan movement, with one key marker being the Sikh Empire of the early 1800s.
The empire was a kingdom in the Punjab region led by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, with the province of Lahore serving as the Sikh capital.
…  Many experts say that another key point for the Khalistan separatist movement was partition — the division of India when British colonial rule ended in 1947. After the British left, millions of Muslims fled west to the newly formed country of Pakistan. Most Hindus and Sikhs chose to stay in India, but the country remained a Hindu-majority nation.”This was important because it led to questions concerning the Sikh identity — the Sikhs themselves not having a homeland,” said Indira Prahst, an instructor in anthropology and sociology at B.C.’s Langara College.
… As the Sikh population reckoned with a lack of autonomy, poor living conditions and intense farming pressure, the idea of Khalistan — a separate, Sikh-led state within the nation — continued to take hold.

Murder claims heighten India-Canada tensions
Politico Ottawa Playbook -Next questions: Will Ottawa overhaul its priorities with India in the federal Indo-Pacific strategy? When did Canadian intelligence officials know about the allegations? When were the prime minister and International Trade Minister MARY NG informed? Is this why Ottawa requested a pause in Canada-India trade talks? Will this bring an advocacy chill in diaspora communities? How will Canada’s partners respond?
How India-Canada ties descended into a public feud
(BBC) The escalating row over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader has the potential to derail years of close relations between Canada and India, two key strategic partners on security and trade.
The rift burst into the open on Monday when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was investigating “credible allegations” about the potential involvement of Indian government agents in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June.
India responded furiously – it “completely rejected” the allegations, calling them “absurd”. Both have expelled one of the other’s diplomats and it’s unclear how they now pull back from the brink.
Just a few months ago, the countries were making progress towards signing a free trade agreement – long in the works – this year. Now, talks are paused and an imminent Canadian trade mission to India postponed.
India-Canada row over Sikh’s killing: What is at stake?
(France 24) Trade talks between India and Canada have taken a hit as tension rises after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities were investigating “credible allegations” linking New Delhi’s agents to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader. On Tuesday, New Delhi dismissed the allegations as “absurd”, and asked Canada instead to crack down on anti-India elements operating in its territory.

18 September
What led Canada to accuse India of role in Sikh leader’s death
The National breaks down the factors and events leading up to the shooting death of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Plus, former CSIS analyst Jessica Davis explains what needed to happen for Canada to accuse the Indian government of murder. (video)
Trudeau says ‘credible allegations’ tie India to murder in Canada
By Amanda Coletta
Canadian authorities are pursuing “credible allegations” tying agents of the Indian government to the slaying of a prominent Sikh leader on Canadian soil in June, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told lawmakers Monday.
(WaPo) Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons on Monday afternoon, did not detail the allegations. He said he had taken his “deep concerns” to top Indian security and intelligence officials and also conveyed them “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit this month.
Canada investigating possible link between India, killing of Sikh activist
Justin Trudeau calls on Indian government to cooperate with probe into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing in Canada in June.
(Al Jazeera) Speaking in Parliament on Monday afternoon, Justin Trudeau said he personally conveyed “deep concerns” to his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was fatally shot on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a city in Canada’s westernmost province of British Columbia, spurring widespread questions and condemnation.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said on Monday.
“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Justin Trudeau Accuses India in a Killing on Canadian Soil
(NYT) It was a rare, explosive allegation by the Canadian leader: That the Indian government killed a Canadian citizen who has advocated turning a part of India into an independent Sikh nation.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that “agents of the Indian government” carried out the killing of a Sikh community leader in British Columbia last June.

15 September
Canada’s trade mission to India postponed amid strained relations
Canada has paused negotiations for a trade deal with India…
(National Post) Canada is postponing a trade mission to India that federal Trade Minister Mary Ng had promoted as key to the Indo-Pacific strategy.
Ng’s office has not explained why the trip, which was scheduled to start Oct. 9, has been postponed.
Canada has paused negotiations for a trade deal with India.
Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan government claimed Ottawa left provinces in the dark for months over the status of trade talks with India.
India’s envoy to Canada revealed two weeks ago that Ottawa had paused trade talks, and neither country has provided a detailed explanation

14 September
B.C. Sikh referendum to ask if Indian diplomat was responsible for ‘assassination’ of local leader
(Canadian Press) Organizers of an unofficial worldwide referendum on Punjabi independence have added a question to the ballot in British Columbia asking if India’s high commissioner was responsible for the killing of a prominent provincial Sikh leader in June.
The group Sikhs for Justice, which has been staging a series of non-binding votes in several countries on the independence issue, says the first stage of balloting in B.C. on Sunday attracted more than 135,000 voters.
It says the second stage will be held on Oct. 29 and will add a second question about whether High Commissioner Sanjay Verma was responsible for the “assassination” of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

10-14 September
What the G20 summit revealed about the Modi Trudeau relationship
David Moscrop
(GZERO North) The G20 meeting in New Delhi recently wrapped up with many observers touting it as a success. … But it wasn’t a great few days for Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who ended up literally stuck in the country because his plane had broken down.
The broken plane begs to be called a metaphor. That’s a bit on the nose, but it isn’t wildly off the mark. What’s more, Canada didn’t get what it wanted and its G20 grab bag seems light compared to the Biden administration’s haul, and Modi’s, too.
India-Canada relations aren’t thriving
Canada wants – and needs – a robust trade and migration relationship with India. In 2022, trade between the two states amounted to roughly CAD$20 billion ($14 billion) in goods and services. India is the number one source of immigration to Canada. Nearly 120,000 newcomers from India became permanent residents in 2022. That’s more than a quarter of Canada’s entire permanent resident count for the year.
… In a sign of just how bad ties between India and Canada have become, ahead of the G20, the two countries announced an indefinite pause on trade talks, which have been ongoing for more than a decade. Canada asked for a break in 2017 order to “take stock” of its position, and India accepted. Trudeau kept mum on why.
At the same time, Canada has launched an inquiry into foreign interference in its democracy, which may include a look at India, particularly its reach into the Indian diaspora in the country.
Canadian officials are concerned about India’s influence on these communities and the political agenda New Delhi may be trying to set, including suppressing dissent and critique of the Indian government, and efforts to support the Khalistani separatist movement, which seeks to establish an independent Sikh state within India. Trudeau talked about foreign interference with Modi, and it can’t have been a warm chat.
If Canada is sensitive to Indian diaspora politics in the country, so is India. Modi reportedly brought up Sikh protests in Canada with Trudeau. He chastised Sikh separatists while an Indian government statement claimed the activists were promoting violence and separatism – essentially accusing Trudeau of letting dangerous secessionists run wild in Canada

Michael Higgins: Trudeau outdoes himself with another disastrous India trip
There seems to be no end to the embarrassment Trudeau can cause Canada
Trudeau failed to attend the official G20 gala dinner and missed the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance, an initiative of the Indian prime minister. Why? Trudeau won’t say, but his bizarre antics led to the Indian media having a field day.
FIRST READING: Trudeau’s positively disastrous trip to India
Tristin Hopper
(National Post) For the second time in his tenure, an official trip to India by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has become defined by a cascading series of gaffes, snubs and diplomatic embarrassments.
Tension was even present in the typically bland official communiques issued by the Indian government. After a short meeting between Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, India’s Ministry of External Affairs issued a statement saying that Modi spent most of the encounter reprimanding Trudeau for allegedly letting Canada become a safe haven for secessionist extremists.
“They are … inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” it read.
… Trudeau had come to New Delhi for the G20 summit, and keen observers of the event alleged that India’s frosty treatment of Trudeau started right at the airport. The Canadian prime minister was picked up in an older Toyota Land Cruiser, while other world leaders got newer model Audis and Mercedes.
And while Modi conducted lengthy bilateral meetings with the likes of Japan and the U.K., Trudeau was only granted what Indian observers referred to as a “pull aside” meeting. The official Canadian portrait of the meeting — posted to Trudeau’s Instagram — shows both leaders facing away from each other with mutual deep scowls.
Canada was also conspicuously absent from Modi’s launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance — a snub all the more notable for the fact that Canadian grain underlies a disproportionate amount of the world’s renewable fuels.
The tense relations between India and the Trudeau government are driven almost entirely by the issue of Khalistan, a Sikh secessionist movement that seeks to calve off the Indian state of Punjab.
Modi scolds Trudeau over Sikh protests in Canada against India
(Reuters) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed strong concerns about protests in Canada against India to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi, according a statement by India.
Relations between India and Canada remain tense, and Ottawa this month paused talks on a proposed trade treaty with India, just three months after the two nations said they aimed to seal an initial agreement this year. Modi, who held bilateral meetings with many world leaders during the G20 summit, did not hold one with Trudeau.
Tensions between Canada and India apparent as G20 summit wraps in New Delhi
(CBC) Relations between Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared strained at this year’s G20 summit. Modi pushed Trudeau to rein in Sikh separatists in Canada, while Trudeau was dissatisfied with the wording of a joint declaration he called too weak on climate change and Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
(Globe & Mail) — Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said if it were up to him, the G20 leaders’ declaration on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine would have been much stronger [India expands G20, keeps it from fracturing over Ukraine — but little progress made on other key issues]

1-8 September
‘I won’t say any more:’ Trudeau mum on paused trade talks with India
(CTV) Speaking from Singapore on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was asked twice to give a reason, but he would not provide any details.
“We know the negotiations around free trade are long and complex and I won’t say any more,” Trudeau said.
Canada and India first launched talks for a comprehensive trade deal in 2010, but those plans were abandoned in 2017. Since 2022, the two countries have instead been engaged in talks about a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement that would be restricted to certain industries.
6 September
Canada ‘taking a reflection’ of its trade talks with India
Nearly a week after it was revealed Canada had paused trade talks with India, Canada’s international trade minister says Ottawa is “taking stock” of where things are at.
“Trade agreements are complex and there are many things that go into that,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng told reporters in Indonesia. “All we are doing at this point is taking a reflection to take stock of where we are.”
The trade minister’s comments come less than a week after India’s envoy to Canada revealed Ottawa had asked for a pause “within the last month.”
1 September
India envoy to Canada says Ottawa has asked to ‘take a pause’ in trade talks
India’s envoy to Canada says Ottawa has tapped the brakes on trade negotiations, just before Prime Minister Justin Trudeau heads to New Delhi.
Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma said Ottawa sought a pause “within the last month” to ongoing talks for an Early Progress Trade Agreement.
“The Canadian side has requested that, let’s take a pause … and then we’ll restart,” Verma said, in a wide-ranging interview ahead of next week’s G20 summit in New Delhi.

14 July
How Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder in Canada fuelled tensions with India
(BBC) A prominent Sikh leader was brazenly murdered last month outside a temple in British Columbia (BC), Canada. The death has outraged his supporters and intensified global tensions between Sikh separatists and the Indian government.
On a mid-June summer evening in the busy parking lot of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the city of Surrey, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead in his truck by two masked gunmen.
A month later, the unsolved killing continues to reverberate, in Canada and across borders. Hundreds of Sikh separatists took to the streets in Toronto, along with a handful others in cities like London, Melbourne and San Francisco, just last weekend to protest the Indian government, which they believe is responsible for his death.
Mr Nijjar was a prominent Sikh leader in BC and a vocal backer of a separate Khalistani state. Supporters of his have said that he was a target of threats in the past because of his activism.
India said he was a terrorist and led a militant separatist group – accusations his supporters call “unfounded”.
Canadian investigators said they have yet to establish a motive for his murder or identify any suspects, but they have categorised the killing as a “targeted incident”.
Canada is home to the largest Sikh diaspora outside the state of Punjab. On 8 July, hundreds protested Mr Nijjar’s death in Toronto outside India’s High Consulate building. They were met with a smaller counter protest in support of the Indian government.

21 June
2 suspects seen fleeing scene of B.C. Sikh leader’s slaying, police say as they renew appeal for witnesses
(CTV) At a news conference Monday, Sgt. Timothy Pierotti, spokesperson for the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team, said no suspects have been arrested and no motive has been determined for the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18.
Nijjar was found with multiple gunshot wounds at the scene outside of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara.

10 May
India, Canada aim to seal trade pact this year
(Reuters) – India and Canada aim to seal an initial agreement this year to increase their trade and expand investment while setting out a mechanism to deal with disputes, they said in a statement on Wednesday.
India’s Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal met his Canadian counterpart, Mary Ng, in Ottawa on Monday, along with business leaders.
“The EPTA would cover, among others, high-level commitments in goods, services, investment, rules of origin, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, technical barriers to trade, and dispute settlement,” they said in a joint statement, referring to their early progress trade agreement.
Joint Statement issued at conclusion of the 6th Canada-India Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment
Canada and India held the sixth Ministerial Dialogue on Trade & Investment (MDTI) in Ottawa on May 8, 2023, co-chaired by the Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, Government of Canada and Shri Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, Consumer Affairs and Food, and Public Distribution and Textiles, Government of India. The Ministers emphasised the solid foundation of the trade and economic relationship between Canada and India and recognized the significant opportunity to deepen bilateral ties and economic partnership.

2022

27 October
A Free Trade Agreement for Canada and India: Is the Time Finally Right?
(Asia Pacific Foundation) Canada and India concluded the fourth round of negotiations on an Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA) on September 26, 2022, bringing both parties one step closer to a much-awaited Canada-India Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Early progress trade agreements are easier to negotiate as they focus on areas of convergence between two partners before they move to a fully-fledged free trade agreement (FTA), which is what Canada hopes to achieve with India. CEPAs, a type of FTA, have broader scope and coverage than EPTAs and typically include provisions on rules of origin, trade in services, trade facilitation mechanisms, and investment, among other areas for deeper economic co-operation. The Canadian government expects that, if successfully negotiated, a Canada-India CEPA will create strong export gains in Canadian agriculture, natural resources, and manufacturing, among other sectors – and, importantly, help Canada to diversify trade beyond the U.S and China. Simultaneously, India would be able to source high-quality raw materials and technology from Canada to boost the performance of its domestic manufacturing sector.
Historically, Canada has not realized the full potential of trade with India, which is known to be a difficult market for exporters to enter. Both countries launched negotiations for a CEPA in 2010 before abandoning the process in 2017. But as India is now moving away from its trade protectionist tendencies and seeking to expand trade relations with new partners, the time is finally right for Canada to strike a trade deal with this South Asian country of more than 1.4 billion. On March 11, 2022, Mary Ng, Canadian Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business, and Economic Development, and Piyush Goyal, Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry, agreed to formally resume trade talks between the two countries. Since then, both parties have engaged in multiple talks to rapidly conclude an EPTA by the end of this year, so that both countries can negotiate a CEPA by 2023.

Lest we forget
22 February 2018
Why Justin Trudeau Is Being Snubbed in India
The Canadian prime minister’s trip could nonetheless help him with a voting bloc he covets.
By Krishnadev Calamur
(The Atlantic) Trudeau has smiled his way through India, however, meeting with business executives, signing billions of dollars worth of business deals, posing for photographs with Bollywood actors, and donning Indian attire befitting his own Indian wedding reception. The Indians, for their part, have denied the Canadian prime minister is being snubbed (one unnamed official went as far as to call it “protocol”). But a snub it is—and the diplomatic brush-off has its roots in an Indian separatist movement from the 1980s and present-day Canadian domestic politics.

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