The need for quiet diplomacy to clear the air

The need for quiet diplomacy to clear the air.

The need for quiet diplomacy to clear the air.


The recent turn of events involving Canada and India has cast a shadow over their diplomatic relations. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s startling accusation, linking the killing of Canadian Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar to “agents of the Government of India,” has plunged their ties to a new low.


  • The Indian Punjab state constituting about 58% of sikh population and another 39% of Hindus was vandalized by a voilent Khalistan separatist movement in 1980s and early 1990s. The main focal point of the movement today is centered amongst the Punjabi overseas population.
  • Recently, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia.
  • Supposedly, Nijjar had campaigned for an Independent Sikh nation – KHALISTAN to be given out of the Indian Punjab state. And since then he was wanted by the Indian authorities and also had been designated as a “Terrorist”
  • The incident created a meltdown in the social media targeting Indian Intelligence Agencies.


GS-02 (International Relations)

Mains Question:

Discuss the recent diplomatic strain between Canada and India, analyzing its potential implications on bilateral relations, regional dynamics, and international alliances, while also considering strategies for conflict resolution. 250 words.

Dimensions of the Article:

  • Accumulated Perceptions
  • The Nijjar Case and Public Discourse
  • Rule of Law and International Order
  • Legal Framework and Constructive Engagement
  • Perceptions of Racism
  • Historical Perspective on Khalistan

Accumulated Perceptions:

  • The strained relationship between India and Canada has roots in long-standing grievances. India has raised concerns about Canada’s handling of the Khalistan issue, while Canada questions India’s adherence to its laws and governance system. These differing views have fueled tension over time.

The Nijjar Case and Public Discourse:

  • The recent Nijjar case has escalated the tension between the two countries. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assertion that Canada has credible allegations and his call for constructive engagement have added to the public discourse.
  •  However, India has reservations about Canada’s willingness to engage constructively on its concerns.

Rule of Law and International Order:

  • Canada emphasizes its commitment to the rule of law and a rules-based world order. It has made the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar a litmus test for upholding this order.
  • Canada’s stance implies that regardless of any grievances, harming nationals of any country is unacceptable. India, while dismissing Trudeau’s accusations as absurd, has offered to address Canadian concerns if specific evidence is provided.

Legal Framework and Constructive Engagement:

  • India contends that national laws cannot be used to advocate for secession and glorify murder. Canada’s response has been to condemn Khalistani propagandists but not take legal action against them.
  • The issue extends to a lack of trust in India’s legal system by Canadian authorities, evident in their reluctance to extradite individuals accused of violence and murder in India. Constructive engagement necessitates a comprehensive dialogue on the legal processes and practices of both countries to address grievances.

Perceptions of Racism:

  • A segment of Indians believes that Canada’s governance approaches toward countries like India are biased, if not racist. They find Canada’s intrusive questioning of Indian visa applicants from security services unacceptable. This raises questions about whether similar inquiries are made of U.S. and British security or defense personnel.
  • While states have the right to grant or deny visas, the manner of seeking answers that contravene a country’s laws and rules challenges the global rules-based order. A bilateral engagement is required to address these concerns.

Historical Perspective on Khalistan:

  • India’s frustrations with Canada regarding the Khalistan issue span over four decades. The establishment of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) in 1984 coincided with the rise of Khalistani activities in Canada.
  • Despite evidence of Khalistani supporters resorting to terrorism, Canada did not fully recognize the threat. The tragic Air India Kanishka bombing in 1985 did not alter Canada’s stance. This history informs India’s responses to recent charges.

Diplomatic Language and Actions

  • The choice of language and actions in diplomacy plays a crucial role in resolving disputes. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s remarks and the expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat have escalated tensions.
  • Responding with measured language and actions can be a sign of diplomatic strength.

The Challenge of Unsubstantiated Claims

  • Canadian officials have not disclosed the exact nature of the intelligence they possess regarding the Nijjar case.
  • While leaks suggest they have human and signals intelligence implicating India, converting this into evidence suitable for judicial scrutiny remains uncertain. Mutual recriminations are counterproductive, particularly in resolving significant bilateral issues.

Way Forward:

  • Resolving the issues surrounding the Nijjar case and other longstanding concerns between India and Canada requires quiet and mature diplomacy.
  • Both countries must engage constructively to address their differences, trust issues, and legal discrepancies.
  • A diplomatic approach that emphasizes dialogue and understanding can pave the way for improved relations.


The strained relationship between India and Canada is rooted in historical grievances and differing perceptions. Recent events, particularly the Nijjar case, have brought these issues to the forefront. To move forward, both countries must prioritize diplomatic engagement, clear the air on existing disputes, and work toward a more cooperative and understanding relationship.