Since a Khalistani leader and a Canadian citizen were killed on Canadian soil, Canada recently withdrew 41 envoys from India as a result of the acrimonious controversy. Since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last month publicly attributed Indian intelligence to the murder of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which India has denied, relations between India and Canada have deteriorated. Indian officials were searching for Hardeep Singh Nijjar for his participation in militancy and a plan to murder people. He was an advocate for an autonomous Sikh state to be established out of India. In June, two masked assailants shot and killed Nijjar, a 1997 immigrant to Canada who became a citizen in 2015. The incident occurred in the parking lot of a Sikh temple outside Vancouver. India has been asked to assist in the investigation by Canada, but New Delhi has disputed the claims and taken countermeasures, such as ceasing to provide Canadians with visa services.
Sikhs make up around 2% of the population in Canada and number 770,000. A strong section of Sikhs has called for the establishment of a separate state called Khalistan. Many Indian Sikhs live outside of Canada in other nations as well. The Sikh diaspora is also one of the largest and fastest-growing diasporas in Australia, ranking fifth overall. Given the atmosphere of sore relations between India and Canada, Australia has warned Indians that they will respond harshly if there is any instance of ethnic or communal violence in their country. Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) chief Mike Burgess said, “I can assure you that when we find governments interfering in our country, or planning to interfere in our country, we will deal with them effectively.
Neither is Canada interested in the Khalistan movement nor does it formally back the separatist group. Here, a crucial point needs to be clarified. The Khalistan movement is an internal Indian matter, much like several other separatist movements that are now taking root there. Instead of shooting Hardeep Nijjar dead on Canadian soil if he posed a security danger to the Indian state or its security forces, India might have coordinated with the helpful Canadian government. This incident shows not only India’s negligent conduct abroad, or what may be called a diplomatic failure, but also its hardline attitude against other religious minorities. In response to India’s immature diplomatic measures, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly stated that India intended to “unethically” strip diplomatic immunity for all but 21 of Canada’s diplomats and their families, forcing Ottawa to withdraw the remaining diplomats. In response to Indian actions, Ottawa also expelled an Indian diplomat over the affair.
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The matter of concern for the international community is that India’s increasingly extremist policies have started affecting foreign countries as well. This is not the only incident of Indian extremism, there are few more incidents where Indian nationals were found guilty of targeting other religious minorities in foreign countries. A similar incident took place in May 2023 when a young Indian boy crashed a truck into the security barrier of the white house with the intent to overcome Biden’s government. The suspect identified as Sai Varshith Kandula, 19, faces multiple charges, including threatening to kill, kidnap or inflict harm on a president. Such actions are the result of BJP’s violent and extremist policies towards the minorities living in India, when the Indian government is not willing to give rights to the minorities living in their country eventually it starts effecting the narrative of their people.
The brutal repression of minorities in the largest democracy in the world and India’s human rights record alarm the international community. India is exposed, much to Doval and Jaishankar’s dismay. India could not possibly afford an internal conflict between its Intelligence Agency and the Foreign Office with a general election close at hand and several recent diplomatic gaffes. However, those who had previously questioned the veracity of the dossiers provided by Islamabad, the EU-DisinfoLab, the activities of its numerous consulates in Afghanistan, or the capture of an Indian naval commander on Pakistani soil may now begin to believe that perhaps not everything was as it seemed with the “Shining India.” This Nazi-inspired ideology and such violent actions, if not timely addressed could engulf the whole international community in its devastating consequences.