On June 18th, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was found dead right outside of a Sikh temple in British Columbia, Canada. A Canadian national, the Sikh figure was a known activist connected to the movement of an independent Khalistan, an idea that has circulated throughout South Asia since partition in the late 1940s. Similar to Pakistan as South Asia’s Muslim-oriented state, the Khalistan movement is designed to create a breakaway state for Sikh nationals in the Indian subcontinent. The murder of Mr. Nijjar elicited a thorough investigation by the Canadian government under the directorship of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. A few months later, on September 18th, Trudeau and the investigation concluded that the Indian Government had a role in Mr. Nijjar’s killing.
As the ruling parliamentary party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is a Hindu nationalist bloc that in the past has cemented its complete control under Narendra Modi, partly due to the main opposition party, the Indian National Congress (INC) being divided among its members. Expressing anti-Pakistan views and implementing anti-Muslim laws, the BJP had been under extreme scrutiny for their treatment of minority groups in the nation such as India’s Sikh population. But domestically, the party enjoys an increasing popularity among many Indian citizens in recent years, partly due to the BJP’s principles about national unity, centered around religion, as well as amicable media coverage. Modi has also gained support because of his anti-caste ideology, which is based on the idea of all Hindus being seen as one bloc.
India’s ruling party the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) denied Trudeau’s claims and responded by personally attacking Trudeau, as well as expressing growing anti-western views in India. The Indian Government, fueled by anti-Canada protests propagating throughout the South Asian nation, has accused Canada of holding terrorists, in addition to comments on Trudeau, such as trying to smuggle cocaine on his private plane. The BJP claims that Trudeau wants to direct eyes away from his domestic policies in Canada to the international sphere, thus making his statement about the killing of Mr. Nijjar a political ploy rather than a based investigation.
What does all of this mean for Canadian-Indian relations, as well as the world? Firstly, it reflects the global polarization only augmented by the Russo-Ukrainian War. Under the Special Economic Measures Act, Canada, as well as much as the West, has stopped most external trade with Russia, ended all financial assistance to the federation, and expressed solidarity with Ukraine. The European Union, a Canadian ally, with some of its member states participating in NATO, has also put oil and natural gas sanctions on Russia. For Russia, India and China have emerged as alternate markets, and Russia has accordingly increased cooperation with these countries.. In August, the nations of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa had their 2023 annual meeting, ensuring closer economic and political ties. Under this new global order, Canada’s remarks and India’s backlash over the killing of Mr. Nijjar are put in context as a smaller role in a larger discord.
The killing of Mr. Nijjar and recent events also have many implications for the United States. Since the end of the Cold War, the US has enacted foreign policies to gain closer ties with India. US President Joe Biden and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have expressed regional stability, economic cooperation, and preservation of democratic processes and the rule of law as the primary bilateral interests. Furthermore, India remains as potentially a key geographical partner of the US, as the Indian Navy sits near and can block the Malacca Strait through the Indonesian Islands, which 40% of global trade passes through. Canada, on the other hand, is one of the US’s historically close allies and possesses invaluable oil reserves as well as geopolitical importance. The recent killing of Mr. Nijjar only forces the US to walk an even finer line in order to balance the competing interests and antagonisms between two very important partners. Since Mr. Nijjar’s case is relatively recent, it is still inconclusive how the US, Russia, Canada, and India will move forward and whether there will be even more global polarization among these great powers.