India-Canada diplomatic tension remains despite New Delhi’s visa easing
While India’s latest move to relax the curbs have raised hopes that the relations between the two nations will improve from here on, the officials and experts said that it was not a breakthrough.
(L-R) Indian prime minister Narendra Modi (Photo by Rob Stothard/Getty Images) and Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau (Photo by Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)
REPAIRING the diplomatic relations between India and Canada after Ottawa alleged New Delhi’s role in the assassination of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar will be a long procedure after the two sides adopted maximalist approaches, despite the Narendra Modi government’s move to ease some of the visa curbs that it brought on Canadians, officials and experts have opined.
The Indian government recently decided to partially restore the visa services, weeks after Ottawa brought the charges over the murder of Nijjar who was gunned down outside a gurdwara by unidentified assailants in Surrey in British Columbia. India strongly reacted to the allegations, calling them “absurd and motivated”. Both sides expelled a top diplomat on either side before India took the decision to curb visas for Canadians.
While India’s latest move to relax the curbs have raised hopes that the relations between the two nations will improve from here on, the officials and experts said that it was not a breakthrough as neither India nor Canada has much incentive to hurry towards a return to normalcy, a Reuters report added.
Neither of the two countries looks likely to make drastic moves for reconciliation since Canada’s probe is underway and Indian prime minister Narendra Modi is preparing for the national elections in April-May next year.
“The relationship is in deep crisis, perhaps its worst ever,” Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, told Reuters.
“Each side may have a strong interest in the crisis not getting completely out of control, but that doesn’t mean there are strong incentives to resolve the crisis.”
Ajay Bisaria, a former Indian ambassador to Canada, told the news outlet that the relationship is in a “de-escalation phase” following “quiet diplomacy”.
While the two nations have spared business and trade relations, the spat has hurt talks on a free-trade deal and threatens Ottawa’s plans in the Indo-Pacific, where New Delhi is a key player to check China’s growing clout.
On September 18, Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau said Canada was “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking New Delhi’s agents to the killing of Nijjar who had sought an independent Khalistan, a Sikh homeland, out of India.
Canada also expelled India’s intelligence chief in Ottawa and the latter quickly responded by halting 13 categories of visas for Canadians and reducing Canada’s diplomatic presence in India, a move Ottawa said was against the Vienna Conventions.