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Trudeau could have avoided the Canada-India diplomatic impasse


  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faces low approval ratings and personal challenges
  • Trudeau publicly accused the Indian government of involvement in a Sikh separatist leader’s murder
  • India strongly rejected Trudeau’s allegations, leading to diplomatic tensions and expulsions
  • The Khalistan movement’s history and the Sikh diaspora’s influence in Canada play a role
  • Trudeau’s actions risk damaging bilateral relations and Canada’s reliance on India for students and immigrants

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has had a few rough years at home. His disapproval ratings breached the 60% mark this summer and are now at 63% – the worst for a Western leader.

On Monday, Prime Minister Trudeau did something remarkable. In an emergency statement to the Canadian Parliament, he charged that the Indian government was potentially responsible for the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in British Columbia in June. “Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India” and Nijjar’s death, Trudeau said.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse
The Guru Nanak Gurdwara, outside of which Nijjar was killed in BC, Canada. Photo Credit: Leoboudv

The next day, Trudeau appeared to walk back his comments a bit:

Canada is not trying to provoke India by suggesting it was linked to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, but wants New Delhi to address the issue properly.

But the diplomatic damage had already been done. India vehemently rejected Trudeau’s allegations and said it had nothing to do with the killing. Raising the ante, New Delhi repeated its previous claims that Canada, which hosts the largest number of ethnic Sikhs outside India, had continued to provide a safe haven to Khalistan separatists.

Canada expelled an Indian diplomat, and India expelled a Canadian diplomat. Fearing reprisals against the minority Indian diaspora in Canada, about 3.7% of the population, the Indian government suspended all visa processing for Canadians planning trips to India.

Background. The Khalistan movement – demanding a separate Sikh country carved out from India – gained significant momentum in the early 1980s when the Indian government cracked down on Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, an Indian militant and Khalistan leader, who sought refuge in Amritsar’s famous Golden Temple. He was killed in a firefight with the Indian Army in 1984.

In revenge, Sikh bodyguards of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi assassinated her on the lawns of her home. Riots ensued, and it took months for the country to heal. Fearing additional government action, the Khalistan movement left India altogether and remained in the Sikh diaspora in the UK, Canada, and the United States. The person allegedly murdered in a Vancouver suburb, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was a devout Khalistan sympathizer.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

Poor judgment. Trudeau, as the leader of Canada, a member of the G-7, should have been more prudent. These spats are typically resolved in private conversations at the highest level, with security agencies of both countries actively involved. All governments are vested in protecting their homeland and frown upon terrorist activities that grow abroad.

For decades, the Israeli Mossad has routinely and quietly conducted covert operations against individuals (deemed a threat to the State of Israel) in foreign countries. After 9/11, the CIA has eliminated thousands of militants, even outside of war theaters. Indian government does not have any history of conducting covert operations on foreign soil.

Some circles maintain that domestic vote-bank politics dictated Trudeau’s moves. At 2% of the population, Sikhs are a powerful minority force in Canada and are active in all three major political parties – Trudeau’s Liberal Party, the Conservative Party, which sits in opposition, and the New Democratic Party (NDP). Currently, nearly 30% of cabinet ministers are Sikhs. The head of the NDP, Jagmeet Singh, has the potential to become Prime Minister if the NDP comes to power.

But, we question the wisdom of a G-7 leader to cast public aspersions on a G-21 leader, having just attended the New Delhi summit. What did Trudeau expect from New Delhi by raising the matter in the Canadian parliament?

Canada needs India a lot more than India needs Canada. According to the BBC, India sends the highest number of international students to Canada – in 2022, they made up 40% of total overseas students at 320,000. Canada has an aging population that needs young, skilled immigrants to pay the country’s extraordinarily high tax rates to fund its cradle-to-grave welfare state. These immigrants are in demand worldwide, so if relations worsen, it will be Canada’s loss as the skilled workforce is easily absorbed in other countries, like the United States, Ireland, Germany, or Australia.

Trudeau’s unforced error will have a monumental impact on the two countries’ bilateral relations. As things stand today, things will only get worse before they get better.

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TIPP Takes

Geopolitics And Geoeconomics

1. Biden Vows $325 Million Aid For Ukraine In Talks With Zelenskyy – Kyodo News

Biden’s top national security aide, Jake Sullivan, said the assistance package was designed to especially beef up Ukraine’s air defenses ahead of a tough winter.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

Biden disclosed in the press that the first batch of U.S. Abrams tanks will arrive in Ukraine next week.

2. Zelenskyy Culminates Washington Visit With A White House Pledge Of $128m – Al Jazeera

Unlike in his first trip to the U.S. Capitol, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy faced a congress less inclined to back large aid packages, despite pledges from Democrats to “stand behind” Ukraine.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

“Thanks to the American people, all these days they are together with us, with Ukrainians, with ordinary people, all of us,” he said.

He also highlighted new military assistance, worth $128m, announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday.

3, Ukraine’s Military Confirms Its Forces Struck Saky Air Base In Crimea – Reuters

Ukraine’s military confirmed its forces had struck a Russian air base in Crimea overnight, an attack that was earlier reported by a Ukrainian intelligence source.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

The intelligence source said the attack was carried out by the SBU security service and navy using drones and Neptune cruise missiles.

The recent attacks highlight Kyiv’s growing missile capabilities as Russia continues to bombard Ukraine from afar with long-range missiles and assault drones.

4. Polish President Says PM Was Misinterpreted On Ukraine Arms – AFP

Polish President Andrzej Duda claimed that the prime minister’s comments on no longer arming Ukraine had been taken the wrong way.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse
Polish President Andrzej Duda with Zelenskyy

Duda told TVN24 television:

Mateusz Morawiecki’s words were interpreted in the worst way possible… In my opinion, the prime minister meant that we won’t be transferring the new weaponry we’re currently buying to Ukraine as we modernize the Polish army.

5. ‘World’s Breadbaskets’ Are Sinking, General Assembly Chief Warns – UN News

Addressing a special summit meeting, Dennis Francis – a veteran diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago – said he was determined to make sure the issue of rising sea levels and other climate effects gets the attention it deserves during his presidency.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

A staggering 900 million people living in low-lying coastal zones are at risk of losing their homes, Mr. Francis warned. No one is immune to a potential catastrophe, he said, “fertile river deltas like the Mississippi, Mekong, and Nile – the world’s breadbaskets – are sinking.”

6. China Reiterates Ceasefire, Peace Talks ‘Only Way’ To End Ukraine War – Al Jazeera

“Cessation of hostilities and the resumption of peace talks is the only way to settle the Ukraine crisis,” Chinese VP Han Zheng told the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) at its annual meeting.

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China has tried to position itself as a peacemaker and neutral arbiter in the conflict, although it has refused to condemn Moscow over the invasion.

7. Do China’s Recent Military Purges Spell Trouble For Xi Jinping? – BBC

In recent months, the disappearances of several high-ranking Chinese officials have sparked speculation over whether Mr. Xi Jinping is embarking on a purge, particularly of those linked to the military.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

There is speculation that Mr. Xi is acting under internal party pressure to clean out the stables as China struggles with a slowing post-Covid economy and soaring youth unemployment.

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China’s Defense Minister Is Only The Latest Victim Of Beijing’s Vanishing Act
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China’s Sacking Of Qin Gang Underscores Opaque Governance

8. U.S. Envoy Emanuel Slams China Again In New Tweet – Nikkei Asia

U.S. Ambassador to Japan Rahm Emanuel tweeted Friday that Chinese fishing boats are operating in Japan’s exclusive economic zone despite their government’s ban on all Japanese seafood.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

Emanuel was needling Beijing just a day after a report that he had been asked to stop.

“They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Chinese vessels fishing off Japan’s coast on September 15th, post China’s seafood embargo from the same waters. #Fukushima,” Emanuel wrote.

9. Philippines To Drag China To International Court For Damaging Coral Reefs In EEZ – WION

The Philippines is taking steps to drag China to an international tribunal over the alleged harvesting and destruction of coral reefs within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

If the Philippines pursues this legal action against Beijing, it would mark its second such action concerning South China Sea disputes, following their victory in 2016. Nevertheless, China did not acknowledge the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) ruling in The Hague.

10. Saudi Arabia Could Enrich Uranium In Possible Israel Normalization Deal: Report – Middle East Eye

According to a Wall Street Journal report, Israel has been secretly working with the U.S. to establish a uranium enrichment operation in Saudi Arabia as part of efforts to strike a normalization agreement.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

The kingdom says it wants security guarantees from the U.S., fewer restrictions on arms sales, and some concessions from Israel on the Palestinian conflict. However, its demand for help developing a civilian nuclear program may be the most contentious.

11. U.S. Renews, Expands Protected Status For Afghanistan – UPI

The Biden administration announced it is granting protection from deportation to thousands of Afghan nationals in the U.S., citing deteriorating conditions in Afghanistan.

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

The Department of Homeland Security, on March 15, 2022, granted Afghanistan Temporary Protected Status, offering temporary legal status to some 3,100 eligible Afghans already in the United States.

12. Sudan Army Chief Warns UN That War Could Spill Over, Engulf Region – Al Jazeera

Sudan’s army chief, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, warned the United Nations that months of war in his country could spill over into the region. 

Trudeau Could Have Avoided The Canada-India Diplomatic Impasse

He called for international pressure on the paramilitary forces he is fighting, including their designation as “terrorists,” and to target its sponsors outside Sudan’s borders – an allusion to ties with Russia’s Wagner mercenaries.

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