As the Indo-Canadian relationship continues to be on the downslide, New Delhi suspended visa services for Canadian citizens, citing a threat to the security of its staff in its consulates in Canada.
“The security situation because of the Canadian government’s inaction has resulted in disruptions, and we have suspended visa applications,” said Arindam Bagchi, spokesperson of the Indian Ministry of External Affairs (MEA). The spokesperson announced that all categories of visa applications, including e-visas, were suspended for an unidentified duration.
The Canadian High Commission in India also announced that it will temporarily “adjust” personnel presence in the country after several Canadian ambassadors received threats on social media.
However, as India and Canada continue to spar over the assassination row, the political leaders and media of India’s rivals across the border have many exciting things to say that might not sit well with the political class in New Delhi.
Former Pakistani Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari commented on the diplomatic situation between India and Canada by saying that India has become a “mischievous” nation that has been “caught violating the sovereignty of a NATO member country.” India has since dismissed these comments.
However, similar opinions were also voiced in an editorial published in Pakistani media on September 20, two days after the Canadian Prime Minister’s accusations. Pakistan’s popular publication ‘Dawn’ carried a report that said that the Indian government would be realizing that if the situation worsens, the consequences could be embarrassing.
The editorial of ‘Dawn’ has held the ‘close relationship’ between India and Israel responsible for this diplomatic crisis. The newspaper noted, “The method of attacking anyone whom India considers a terrorist has been taken from the handbook of the Israeli intelligence agency Mossad.”
Another publication, called the “Daily Times,” has urged Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry to take a strong posture given the current circumstances. The newspaper attempted to compare Nijjar’s murder to that of accused spies apprehended close to the Line of Control between India and Pakistan.
According to the Express Tribune, India is going through a “difficult phase” regarding the rights of Sikhs and its policies in light of the recent violence in Manipur that has also become a global talking, putting under spotlight New Delhi’s human rights records and the treatment meted out to the minorities in the country.
While Pakistan has made no bone of intending to humiliate India by jumping on this bandwagon, another rival of India across the border has been more subtle. Although the Chinese government has not yet given any official reaction to the diplomatic crisis between India and Canada, its media has used this development to criticize America and Western countries.
Notably, all Chinese media is controlled and regulated by the People’s Republic of China and is thus notorious for reflecting state policy and propaganda.
Xinhua, The Paper, and ChinaNews.com, three central government media channels, report the occurrence of India and Canada removing each other’s diplomats following the killing of Khalistani separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar correctly.
However, Global Times, China’s nationalist newspaper with a global audience, stated on September 19 that “India-Canada diplomatic tension shows the hypocrisy of alliances based on American values.”
“Western countries claim to be defenders of human rights and often criticize other nations for their human rights issues. Their praise for India’s so-called “democracy” is primarily driven by geopolitical interests and the desire to include India in their anti-China alliance,” said the report.
The National Strategy Institute of Tsinghua University’s director of research, Qian Feng, said that Western nations, particularly the United States, have recently served as ambassadors for the shared principles of democracy and freedom. He has been attempting to work with India to confront China.
“They have turned a blind eye to what they think is India’s track record of human rights abuses. This exposes the hypocrisy of the Western alliance towards India.”
What’s Next For This Unending India-Canda Row?
The decisions taken by either state in the span of a few days have essentially signaled an increase in tensions between them, triggered by Canada’s announcement that it was “actively pursuing credible allegations” connecting Indian government agents to the June assassination of a Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a leading advocate for establishing Khalistan, a Sikh homeland in northern India. Since the Khalistani movement, which calls for an independent state for the Sikh community, is outlawed in India, Nijjar has been labeled a “terrorist” by the Indian government.
The Canadian claims that the Indian state could be behind his assassination have been vigorously refuted by New Delhi, which has called them “absurd and motivated.” According to India’s foreign minister, Canada has allegedly offered “no specific information” to corroborate Delhi’s alleged participation in Nijjar’s death.
“Let me also point out that from our side, concrete evidence of criminal activities by individuals based on Canadian soil has been shared with the Canadian authorities regularly but not been acted upon,” Bagchi, the ministry’s spokesman, said.
The Indian National Investigation Agency accused Nijjar in 2020 of “trying to radicalize the Sikh community across the world in favor of the creation of “Khalistan,” adding that he had been “trying to incite Sikhs to vote for secession, agitate against the government of India, and engage in violent activities.” Nijjar’s name is on the Home Ministry’s list of UAPA terrorists.
He was shot dead in his truck in June by two masked assailants outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia, according to the local police. The Sikh community in Canada, one of the most significant outside of India and home to more than 770,000 followers of the religious minority, was startled and angered by his death.
The accusations have triggered an angry response in India, which quickly took tough decisions like issuing travel advisories and asking its citizens to exercise caution in Canada, warning them of “politically condoned hate crimes.”
Not just that, in a briefing held on September 21, the Indian MEA Spokesperson called for a parity in the number of ambassadors in both countries, which essentially means that Canada would be required to withdraw some of its staff from India.
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