Canada’s Defence Minister, Bill Blair, has expressed concerns about the recent measures taken by India, including the suspension of visa services for Canadians. He is urging New Delhi to fully cooperate in the investigation of the killing of a Sikh separatist leader, with the aim of uncovering the truth and resolving the situation appropriately.
Tensions between India and Canada escalated following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of potential involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which occurred on Canadian soil in British Columbia on June 18. Notably, in 2020, India officially designated Nijjar as a terrorist.
In response to Trudeau’s allegations, India vehemently rejected them, deeming them “absurd” and “motivated.” In a tit-for-tat move, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat, mirroring Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the case. Furthermore, India suspended visa services for Canadians.
During an interview with CBC News, Canada’s Defence Minister, Bill Blair, conveyed, “We have received and have confidence in highly credible intelligence that has raised serious concerns. Consequently, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) has launched an investigation.” Blair stressed the paramount importance of refraining from confirming or disclosing sources or investigation details, underscoring their significance to both Canada and its global partners.
Blair expressed his concern about the measures taken by India, acknowledging the significant Indo-Canadian population in Canada with deep connections to India through family, business, and other relationships. He stressed the need for a thorough investigation to establish strong evidence of what occurred, enabling both Canada and the Indian government to uncover the truth and address the situation appropriately. Canada’s only request of India is full cooperation in the investigation due to its critical significance.
Canada had been pursuing stronger trade, defense, and immigration ties with India before the “credible intelligence” was first raised with Canadian officials, as reported by Global News. Blair indicated that Canada would continue to seek partnerships, such as the Indo-Pacific strategy, while the investigation into the allegations continues. He emphasized the importance of the relationship with India, recognizing the challenges posed by the current situation.
Canada’s Defence Minister, Bill Blair, has emphasized the nation’s dual responsibility: defending the law and citizens while ensuring a thorough investigation to uncover the truth. Blair expressed deep concern that if the allegations are proven true, it would signify a significant violation of Canada’s sovereignty, given the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.
Blair highlighted the continued importance of the Indo-Pacific strategy for Canada. As a result of this strategy, there has been a notable augmentation in military presence in the region, coupled with substantial commitments to bolster patrol capabilities. To support these military priorities, the strategy allocates $492.9 million over five years, out of a total budget of nearly $2.3 billion over the same period.
In his interview with CBC News, Blair underlined that every country in the world, including Canada, has substantial trade interests in the Indo-Pacific region. However, he stressed that Canada’s engagement in any region must be grounded in the rules of the international order. Canada remains steadfast in its commitment to uphold these rules.
India has also called on Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff in the country, arguing for parity in the size and rank equivalence of mutual diplomatic missions. The current size of Canada’s diplomatic staff in India exceeds that of New Delhi’s diplomatic presence in Canada.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently stated that Canada had shared evidence related to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar with India several weeks ago. Canada seeks constructive engagement with India to establish the facts in this “very serious matter.”When inquired about Canada’s disclosure of information, the Ministry of External Affairs in India responded that Canada had not provided any specific information pertaining to the case. However, India reiterated its willingness to consider any specific information provided by Canada.