The recent expulsion of foreign diplomats between Canada and India is a significant development in a growing diplomatic dispute that could have far-reaching consequences for both countries. As tensions rise, experts suggest that the impact could extend beyond government actions and potentially affect people-to-people relationships.
India has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens against traveling to Canada due to “growing anti-India activities”, “hate crimes”, and “criminal violence” in the country. This advisory reflects the deteriorating relations between the two nations and raises concerns about the safety of Indian international students in Canada.
Former diplomat Patricia Fortier emphasizes that the decision to expel a foreign official is a serious step in diplomatic relations and is typically taken when private dispute resolution attempts have failed. While trade sanctions and sanctions against individuals are more hostile measures, neither Canada nor India has taken such steps in this dispute. Fortier hopes it does not come to that.
The tension between Canada and India began when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revealed “credible allegations” of Indian government involvement in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and Sikh leader.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a strong advocate for an independent Sikh homeland in India known as Khalistan, was killed in British Columbia in June.
While the allegations, if proven true, would be significant, Fortier underscores that intelligence does not equal evidence. Publicly making such allegations can strain otherwise friendly relations between countries.
In diplomatic circles, several steps precede the expulsion of diplomats, including the exchange of diplomatic notes, calling in the other country’s ambassador for a lecture, and recalling diplomatic staff. Travel advisories, like the one issued by India, can also serve as a diplomatic tool for political messaging.
Experts suggest that Canada and India might experience the fallout of this dispute in various ways, including:
Suspended trade negotiations: Talks of a trade deal and a Canadian trade mission in October have been put on hold, affecting future trade plans. While the immediate impact may not be felt, there could be catch-up efforts required once the dispute is resolved.
Global geopolitical implications: Other countries have expressed concerns about the dispute, with some, like the UK, proceeding with free-trade negotiations with India. Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy may be hindered without India’s participation.
Further tensions: Experts believe that the chill in Canada-India relations may continue, and it is uncertain whether tensions will escalate or ease as the investigation into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s death continues.
Possible retaliation: India might take retaliatory measures against Canada, such as blocking trade or delaying visas, while Canada could reciprocate.
Impact on agricultural imports: Canada is India’s 10th largest trading partner, with coal, potash, and lentils as primary imports. Any punitive measures from India could affect agricultural imports from Canada.
Despite these challenges, experts emphasize the resilience of the people-to-people ties between Canada and India. They remain optimistic that, despite the diplomatic dispute, the rich and complex relationship between the two countries will endure, just as it has in the face of past difficulties.
While the Canada-India dispute is a serious diplomatic matter, the relationship between their people remains robust. The impact on trade, international cooperation, and people-to-people ties may be significant but not insurmountable.