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India-Canada Relations in Deep Crisis: Sikhs and Trade at Stake

   Recently, during the Group of Twenty (G20) leaders’ summit held in New Delhi, the capital of India, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau got frustrated. First, because of the anti-India protests by Sikhs in Canada, they were “cold faced” and “reprimanded” by Indian Prime Minister Modi. Later, they encountered “technical problems” on the special plane and were forced to stay in India. It was only in the past few days that Trudeau finally took action and made “explosive accusations” against India, believing that it was related to the shooting death of an Indian-Canadian. Relations between India and Canada have deteriorated again and fallen into a “profound crisis”, which has also created a difficult problem for their common “ally” the United States.
   For several months, relations between India and Canada have continued to be tense due to Sikh protests and other factors. The latest trigger is related to the shooting case of Indian-Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijar. According to reports, Nijar is a Sikh leader and a supporter of Indian separatist organizations. India listed Nijar as a “terrorist” in 2020. In June 2023, Nijar was shot dead by multiple gunmen outside a Sikh temple in Metro Vancouver, British Columbia. He was 45 years old.
   Nijar’s death immediately triggered protests in Canada and other countries. Canada even made unprecedented accusations that India carried out “political assassinations” on Canadian soil, which aroused serious concern in other countries. In the face of Canada’s accusations, India immediately responded strongly, criticizing its statement as “ridiculous.” On September 19, the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the expulsion of a senior Canadian diplomat and advised him to leave the country within 5 days.
   In fact, there have been constant frictions and frequent discords between India and Canada over the Sikh issue. “Time Magazine” pointed out that as early as 2015, when Trudeau came to power, his cabinet included four Sikh members, and tensions between Indo-Canada immediately heated up. According to statistics, Canada has one of the largest Sikh communities outside India, with approximately 770,000 people reporting their religious affiliation as Sikhism. Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the think tank Wilson Center, analyzed that Sikh activities are increasing in Canada, and India is exerting increasing pressure on Canada. The combination of various factors “has plunged bilateral relations into a Deep Crisis,” “Trade appears to have fallen victim to rising tensions.”
   According to reports from many mainstream media in Canada, Canada has recently suspended trade negotiations with India and postponed the itinerary of a trade delegation. Kugelman also pointed out that India may take further response measures, “requesting the withdrawal of accusations, lowering the level of relations, etc.” “We have to be clear that relations (between the two countries) have probably reached their lowest level. It will not be easy to return to the old normal in the short term.”

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