This week, Canada revealed that it has intelligence suggesting potential involvement of Indian government agents in the assassination of a Sikh separatist leader. This type of information typically causes outrage among democratic allies, but not in this case.
India is being pursued by the United States and other countries as a balance to China, and Trudeau’s uncommon criticism only a few days after.
The G20 Summit being held in New Delhi has put Western countries in a difficult position.
Stephanie Carvin, a professor of international relations at Carleton University in Ottawa, states that India holds significance in Western strategies for counterbalancing China, while Canada does not hold the same level of importance.
She stated, “This places Canada in a negative position compared to other Western nations.”
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated that Canada is actively investigating credible accusations that Indian agents may have played a role in the killing of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
By then, Ottawa had already been in talks about this with important partners, like the Five Eyes alliance for sharing intelligence. This alliance includes the United States, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand.
The outcomes thus far have been restrained. The UK declined to openly condemn India and confirmed that discussions about trade between the two nations will proceed as scheduled. In fact, a statement from Foreign Secretary James Cleverly regarding the incident did not specifically mention India.
According to Chietigj Bajpaee, an expert on India at the Chatham House think tank in London, Britain is facing a challenging situation of balancing its support for Canada and avoiding any conflict with India. India is a valuable trading partner and potential ally in the face of China, making it a country that Britain is eager to maintain good relations with.
Bajpaee stated that unless there is concrete proof of India’s involvement, the UK’s reaction is expected to be restrained. He also mentioned that a trade agreement would be a significant achievement for both India and Britain.
John Kirby, the national security adviser for the White House, expressed significant worry and urged Indian authorities to assist in any inquiry. India denies any involvement in the killing.
According to The Washington Post, Trudeau requested for a joint statement denouncing India at the recent Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, but was rejected by the United States and other participating countries.
Kirby denied any claims that we rejected Canada in any manner and assured that we will continue to work together and communicate with them regarding this matter.
The reaction to Trudeau’s accusations has been noticeably different from the outcry that followed the poisoning of Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia with nerve agent in England in 2018. At that time, Britain, the United States, Canada, and other countries expelled over 100 Russian diplomats as a form of retribution against Moscow for an assault they have consistently denied being responsible for.
According to Wesley Wark from the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Ontario, our Five Eyes allies are hesitant to get too involved due to their desire to improve relations with India while also dealing with tensions between China.
“It’s a matter of waiting. If the Canadians provide substantial evidence of the Indian government’s involvement in a plot to assassinate, I believe our allies will speak out in support,” he stated.
Due to the reluctance of allies to consider a joint condemnation of India, Canada’s available options are currently restricted. This may continue until Canada is able to present undeniable proof.
According to Richard Fadden, former director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, without the support of our allies, either publicly or privately, Canada will have limited ability to influence India.
He stated to CTV that our main goal in the near or medium future should be to prevent India from repeating this action.
Sources from the Canadian government expressed a desire to delay making a statement, but ultimately felt compelled to take action due to the imminent release of the story by certain domestic media outlets.
According to one source, Trudeau would not have publicly addressed the issue unless there was concrete evidence to support it. They expressed hope that additional information would be revealed in the near future.
The senior source stated that Canada has not publicly shared its intelligence due to an ongoing murder investigation.
The source stated that India must handle this responsibility with care as they are on the brink of a global opportunity that is in their best interest.