Canada-India Relations Strained

Canada-India Relations Strained: Dirty Allegations, Diplomatic Expulsions, and the Khalistan Question
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Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, dropped a bombshell on Monday, announcing “credible” information linking Indian government agents to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia in June. This revelation has further strained bilateral ties between the two nations, already soured by Canada’s perceived leniency towards Sikh protesters advocating for an independent Sikh homeland.

The Hardeep Singh Nijjar Affair

The tragic incident involving Hardeep Singh Nijjar unfolded on June 18 when he was fatally shot outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. Najjar was not just a random victim, he was a passionate advocate for Khalistan, an independent Sikh nation that supporters seek to establish within India’s Punjab state. However, his advocacy came with significant controversy. Indian authorities had designated him as a “terrorist” in July 2020, alleging his involvement in activities aimed at undermining India’s sovereignty.

What makes Nijjar’s case even more intriguing is that Canada’s intelligence agencies reportedly had warned him about threats to his life. According to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Nijjar’s assassination appeared to be a calculated, targeted act.

To understand the context of Nijjar’s advocacy for Khalistan, we must dig into the history of the Khalistan movement. This separatist movement emerged in the 1980s and early 1990s when Punjab, India’s northern state with a significant Sikh population, was rocked by violent separatist activities. Thousands lost their lives during this turbulent period. Today, the Khalistan movement largely echoes the Punjabi migration overseas, especially in countries like Canada.

Nijjar’s tragic fate underscores the complex dynamics surrounding the Khalistan issue, which continues to influence both international and domestic politics. His story represents an intersection of activism, alleged terrorism, intelligence warnings, and a movement that spans across borders, making it a crucial facet of contemporary Sikh and Indian history.

Canada’s Sikh Community and India’s Concerns

Canada hosts one of the largest overseas Indian communities, approximately 1.4 million strong, with a significant Sikh presence. Sikhs number around 770,000 according to the 2021 census, making them a substantial part of Canada’s cultural collage. In fact, Canada is home to the highest population of Sikhs outside of Punjab.

India has repeatedly raised concerns about Sikh extremists within Canada’s Indian migration who, it claims, are attempting to rekindle the insurgency. A key point of contention was a parade float in 2022 depicting the assassination of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, viewed as glorifying violence by Sikh separatists.

Impact on Canada-India Relations

The recent developments surrounding allegations linking Indian government agents to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar have had a notable impact on Canada-India relations, particularly in the context of trade and diplomatic ties.

Canada and India were actively pursuing a trade deal earlier this year. However, these revelations have cast a shadow over this prospect. Talks on the trade agreement have been put on hold, with India citing “certain political developments” as the reason. This suspension is significant given that India is Canada’s tenth-largest trading partner. Although plans for a trade deal have been in progress for over a decade, the bilateral trade between the two nations in 2022 amounted to just C$13.7 billion, a fraction of Canada’s total trade worth C$1.52 trillion.

In response to the allegations and perceived activities of Sikh separatists on Canadian soil, India has called upon Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to take action against what it terms “anti-India elements” operating within Canada. Additionally, India has expelled a senior Canadian diplomat from the country.

These actions highlight the complexities of diplomacy and international relations, where political and security concerns can have a direct impact on economic partnerships. The situation highlights the challenges both nations face in balancing their interests, addressing security concerns, and nurturing trade relationships between controversial issues that involve their respective migration communities.

The coming months will likely be crucial in determining the trajectory of Canada-India relations, and whether they can overcome these challenges to resume trade talks and maintain diplomatic harmony.


The revelation of Indian government involvement in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader has thrown Canada-India relations into turmoil. With trade talks on hold and diplomatic expulsions, both nations face a challenging path forward. As they navigate this diplomatic storm, it remains to be seen how the two countries will find common ground and address the concerns surrounding Sikh separatism and bilateral trade.


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