Thursday, July 25, 2024

Why India should not Engage in any “Private Talks” with Canada

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The relations between India and Canada have hit an all-time low as a result of the baseless accusations levelled by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleging a supposed role played by the Indian government in the murder of Khalistan separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The allegations, made on the floor of the House of Commons by the Canadian Prime Minister, have not yet been backed by any credible evidence. These allegations seem to be based on a trail of uncorroborated information, much of which has been gathered through espionage. The stand of the Government of India on this matter has been clearly communicated to the Government of Canada as well as its allies, with EAM S. Jaishankar rightly dismissing the charges made by Prime Minister Trudeau as speculative and unverified. In fact, all credit must go to the Minister of External Affairs for not only pushing forward India’s stand but also changing the narrative which the Canadian dispensation would have liked the world, particularly the western world, to believe.

Interestingly, the Prime Minister of Canada has given several statements after the September 18 fiasco, expressing his intent to maintain strong ties with India. There is, however, a marked disconnect between the statement given by the Canadian Prime Minister in the House of Commons and the subsequent press conferences addressed by him. The macho, aggressive stance taken by him in the parliament seems to have been replaced by a more pragmatic position, perhaps because of India’s strong and unbridled commitment to exposing the hypocrisy of the Canadian government with regard to its open support of the Khalistan movement on its soil. The diplomatic standoff has caused immense embarrassment to Canada, with world media declaring it to be one of Prime Minister Trudeau’s worst decisions ever.

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With tensions skyrocketing between India and Canada and with India demanding the reduction of diplomatic staff, Canada has now requested India to engage in “private talks”. The nature of these talks is yet to be ascertained; however, India is in a strong position to either accept or reject such requests. Besides, there are several reasons why the Government of India should not engage in any “private talks” with the Government of Canada. To begin with, the diplomatic fracas was not initiated by India, but was a consequence of the irresponsible statements made by the Canadian Prime Minister. India has never had and will never have any role to play in the assassination of a foreign citizen on foreign soil, be it a friendly country or an enemy country. Prime Minister Trudeau should’ve had his facts checked and perhaps even read about the history of India’s foreign policy before levelling such unsubstantiated allegations against India. Secondly, in a surprise move, the Government of Canada halted trade negotiations with India on September 1 and cancelled a trade mission which was to visit India in October this year. Trade being an important pillar of Indo-Canadian relations, this move by Canada stunned many experts. Expectedly, the justification given by the Canadian government was extremely unconvincing. It was the Canadian dispensation which took this decision unilaterally, while India was committed to trade talks with Canada.

The mysterious absence of Prime Minister Trudeau from the Presidential Dinner hosted by Honourable President of India during the G20 Summit and his even more sinister extended stay has left many people, both in India and Canada, bewildered and perplexed.

Not attending the Presidential dinner must be interpreted as a mark of disrespect. It is noteworthy that like all other heads of state, a gracious invitation was also extended for the Presidential Dinner to Prime Minister Trudeau, but he did not consider it worthwhile to attend the dinner in which all other heads of state, including the President of the United States of America, were present. Moreover, as far as the Khalistan problem is concerned, it is public knowledge that India had submitted a dossier to the Canadian government many years ago, comprising the names and criminal records of Khalistan separatists living in Canada. The dossier provided substantial details of the anti-national activities of these fugitives sheltered by Canada. The Canadian government chose to completely ignore the dossier and instead of taking pre-emptive action against the Khalistan separatists, the Trudeau government kept pandering to their whims and fancies. With such inaction exhibited by the Canadian government and its abject refusal to look into the details presented by the Government of India then, the question of having “private talks” now does not arise. Had the Canadian government taken cognisance of India’s grievance against the rising tide of Khalistan separatism in Canada, matters would not have taken such an ugly turn. Until and unless the Canadian government deals with the Khalistan problem, a ticking time bomb in its own backyard, the Indian government has no reason to engage in any private or public talks with Canada.

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Besides the fact that the Canadian Prime Minister has axed his own foot by escalating tensions, there is also a technical problem with having such a large diplomatic staff based in India. Canada’s mission in India is manned by sixty-two diplomats whereas India’s mission in Canada has around twenty diplomats. Such disparity in numbers should not have existed in the first place, but now with tensions between the two countries at an all-time high, there are good reasons to reduce the diplomatic staff at the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi and bring it at par with the staff strength of the Indian High Commission in Ottawa.

There are, therefore, plenty of reasons why India should turn down the offer of “private talks” and instead press the Canadian government to first act against Khalistan separatists for whom Canada has become a safehouse. It is high time India shows the world that it means business, and that it will do anything to protect its sovereignty and dignity.

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The author is a Historian and Independent Researcher and currently teaches online as Guest Faculty for Southern New Hampshire University, USA.  

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