The Indo-Canadian relationship has seen a deep divide over the announcement by Justin Trudeau, the Canadian Prime Minister, casting suspicion about the Indian hand in killing the Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar who headed the Khalistani Tiger Force (KTF) in India. While the investigation is pending, an Indian diplomat was expelled from Indian High Commission.
Though India has stoutly denied the Canadian allegation, the US media suggested that Canada shared evidence with partners in the 'Five Eyes' intelligence alliance and same was discussed with India during G-20 summit.
Canadian government sources were quoted by Canada's public television CBC as saying that there was both SIGINT (Signal Intelligence) and HUMINT (Human Intelligence) inputs that included communications between diplomats within the Indian High Commission pointing to the Nijjar killing. If so, this would also mean that Canadian security agencies had surveillance operations targeting the Indian mission, a violation of diplomatic protocol.
Tensions between India and Canada over the Khalistan issue have always run high, and are the primary reason why no Indian Prime Minister made a bilateral visit to Canada between 1973 and 2015, barring Manmohan Singh who visited Toronto in 2010 for the G-20 summit held there. This was because from the late '70s onwards, the rise of the Khalistani separatist movement in Punjab was accompanied by an increase in support for the movement from a part of the Sikh diaspora. When India requested the extradition of Khalistani leader Talvinder Singh Parmar in 1982, Canada rejected it. A few years later, Parmar masterminded the bombing of the Air India flight 182 from Toronto to Mumbai in June 1985, in which 329 were killed.
Further Trudeau's government hangs on the support of 18 Sikh MPs of New Democratic party whereas our Lok Sabha has only 13 Sikh MPs. At 7.71 lakh, Sikhs comprise 2.1% of Canada's population - second largest Sikh population in the world next to India. British Columbia has third largest Sikh proportion (5.9%) behind only Punjab and Chandigarh. There are a large number of Gurudwaras in Canada.
Relations have been rocky. Mr. Trudeau's visit to India in 2018 was dogged by controversies, including the appearance of Khalistan supporter at his dinner reception. New Delhi froze engagements with Ottawa after Mr. Trudeau criticised Mr. Modi's handling of the farmers' protests in India in 2020.
Canada accepted 2,26,000 Indian students, and the Indian diaspora in Canada today stands at 1.4 million. India's decision to suspend visas to Canadians could see reciprocal action by Canada that would affect hundreds of thousands awaiting their visas.