India-Canada relations

India-Canada relations

News: India-Canada relations have hit a serious blow after Canada’s PM accused ‘agents of Indian government’ in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, designated as a terrorist by India. India rejected the allegations and accused Canada of sheltering Khalistani extremists.

Background of India-Canada relations:
• India Canada established diplomatic relations in 1947. However, India Canada relations witnessed deterioration in the political domain despite engaging well in other domains.
• Canada supported a plebiscite in Kashmir in 1948.
• In the aftermath of the nuclear tests, India’s relations with Canada deteriorated as Canada recalled its high commissioner to India following the nuclear tests.
• Relations between India and Canada have remained strained due to Canada’s alleged leniency toward supporters of Khalistan.

India-Canada relations from 2006:
• During the tenure of Conservative Party’s Stephen Harper as Canadian PM from 2006 to 2015, Canada and India enjoyed strong relations.
• Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Canada in 2015 was the first bilateral visit by an Indian PM since 1973. India Canada relation was elevated from bilateral relation to a strategic partnership.
• The government hailed the visit with the assumption that decades of mistrust over the Khalistan issue could be brushed aside.

How is the Khalistan issue posing as a challenge?
• Justin Trudeau’s proximity to individuals sympathetic to Khalistan’s cause strained bilateral relations.
• 2017- The then Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, accusing him of associating with separatists.
• 2018- Jaspal Atwal convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian Cabinet minister in 1986 was invited to dine with Trudeau during his Visit to India.
• 2020- New Delhi accused Trudeau of inciting extremists when he expressed concerns about New Delhi’s response to the farmers’ protest and pledging support for their rights.
• 2022- In March 2022, Trudeau’s Liberal Party formed an alliance with the New Democratic Party (NDP), led by Jagmeet Singh, who is vocal on Khalistan Referendum on Canadian soil.
• 2023- During the recent G20 summit in New Delhi, PM Modi conveyed “strong concerns” about “continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements” in Canada.

India-Canada relations – Key points
• Canada’s Indo-Pacific policy lists India as a critical partner while China as an increasingly disruptive global power.
• India is Canada’s tenth-largest trading partner. Bilateral trade between India and Canada stands at USD 5 billion.
• India and Canada signed a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement (NCA) in 2010 for which a Joint Committee on Civil Nuclear Cooperation was constituted by both the countries. Uranium supply deal has been signed during PM Modi’s visit in 2015.
• IC-IMPACTS (the India-Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability) is the first, and only, Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence.
• Close to 1.6 million (PIOs and NRIs) represent Indian diaspora in Canada, which account for more than 3% of its total population. The diaspora has done well in the field of politics, the present House of Common (total strength of 338) has 22 Members of Parliament of Indian-origin.

Way Forward
• India must engage in constructive dialogue with Sikh Diaspora and try to dispel misinformation manufactured by Khalistani seperatists.
• Increase cooperation in mutually beneficial areas such as trade, infra, transport, science and tech, healthcare and energy.
• Protect Indian diaspora and Indian students studying in Canada. 

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