Split screen is the best way to view the India-Canada spat

RASHMEE ROSHAN LALL September 22, 2023
New Delhi's sunshine economic prospects seem out of sync with the sort of thuggishness suggested by Ottawa
gurdwara-canada.jpeg
A Sikh gurdwara in Ontario, Canada. Photo by Jatinder Nagra on Unsplash

The India-Canada spat is best viewed in split screen.

To one side is India’s angry denial of Justin Trudeau’s explosive charge that Indian agents were involved in the murder in Vancouver of a Canadian citizen sympathetic to India’s Sikh separatist movement.

On the other is JPMorgan promising to add India to its emerging-market bond index. The inclusion of Indian government bonds to the American bank’s widely tracked index could open the door to billions of dollars of foreign capital into India’s economy.

Those sunshine prospects seem out of sync with the sort of thuggishness suggested by Ottawa.

And yet, Canada is said to have shared intelligence about the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar with its allies in the so-called Five Eyes pact. None seem to have questioned it. In fact, shortly after Mr Trudeau levelled the charge in Canada’s parliament, the US and UK seemed supportive of their ally’s position, urging India to co-operate with a Canadian probe. India has not indicated any appetite for any such course of action.

So what happens with the rising tensions? The Canadian prime minister is under domestic pressure to reveal evidence of Indian involvement in the killing. A criminal investigation is already underway. The Canada-India relationship was testy from time to time because New Delhi considered  Ottawa too soft in its embrace of separatists among the 770,000-strong Sikh diaspora in Canada.

In India, a heated debate is underway about the rights and wrongs of its discomfiture that Sikh separatist sentiments or Khalistanis have a secure home in some Western capitals.

And several Indians are repeating the following tweet, which has an inescapable basic logic to it: “I am against the idea of Khalistan, as the majority of Sikhs are. That said, how many of those, who are painting Sikhs as ‘Khalistanis’, are against the idea of a ‘Hindu Rashtra’, coz if u support ‘Hindu Rashtra’ banter, then u do not have any grounds to counter Khalistan demand.”

Go figure.