India Issues Safety Warning for Citizens in Canada Amid Escalating Diplomatic Tensions


India has raised alarm bells for its citizens studying in Canada, issuing a warning regarding potential security risks just weeks after its chief diplomat underscored their safety. The development is the latest in a series of events marking an escalating diplomatic rift between India and Canada, a situation that intelligence and diplomatic insiders caution is only the beginning.

Fueling the argument is a need for increased transparency and thorough scrutiny of how foreign interference is confronted by Canada. As Jessica Davis, a counter-terrorism authority, articulated, “Internal mechanisms must be put in place to ensure that we can promptly identify and disrupt any attempts by an external state to destabilize our country.”

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The situation was exacerbated after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau proclaimed that Canadian intelligence agencies are investigating potential links between the Indian government and the death of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in B.C, eliciting a vehement denial from India.

In response, Trudeau encouraged India to give heed to the allegations and co-operate with the ongoing police investigation. On the contrary, India accused Canada of sheltering radicals advocating separatism for the Sikh community, reciprocated the expulsion of their senior diplomat by Canada, and issued a travel advisory for its citizens in Canada.

The advisory explicitly states that due to the deteriorating condition of safety in Canada, all Indians, and particularly students, need to tread with caution and remain alert. India, being a significant feeder of foreign students in Canadian universities, heavily contributes to the institutions’ funding via their tuition fees.

Notably, this warning contrasts with remarks from India’s high commissioner to Canada, who recently stated that he was not significantly anxious about the safety of Indian students in Canada, stressing only possibilities of fraud.

However, Immigration Minister Marc Miller remained unfazed, dismissing the claims, asserting the country’s safety, and urging for calm.

Nevertheless, Roland Paris, a veteran of foreign policy and a respected figure in international affairs, stated that Canada’s diplomatic coldness with India is likely just commencing. He expressed that it is too early to predict whether these tensions will alleviate or intensify, given the ongoing investigation into Nijjar’s death.

Paris also drew attention to the possibility of retaliatory measures by India such as trade blocking or visa delays and speculated that Canada might respond in kind. He stressed the need for Canadian diplomacy to optimally leverage back channels and closely collaborate with allies.

Despite the rising tension, both nations pride themselves on their traditionally amicable relations, and major alterations are not expected unless fresh evidence surfaces. In the meantime, the reciprocated expulsion of diplomats from Ottawa and New Delhi is shaping a new diplomatic norm.

However, experts warn that the episode could potentially hinder Ottawa’s attempts to gain entry into the U.S.-led Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Meanwhile, bilateral relations, following Trudeau’s “bombshell” announcement, have entered a “deep freeze,” with experts dubbing the situation as the lowest diplomatic point between Canada and India in recent memory.

Echoing Jessica Davis, Roland Paris accentuated the need to tackle foreign interference more effectively given the increasingly treacherous global landscape we inhabit. Initiatives such as providing detailed clarification of allegations surrounding Nijjar’s death and publicly disclosing threat information can serve to strengthen Canada’s position against external disruptions. He also noted the importance of sharing actionable intelligence and countering foreign interference to protect Canadian citizens.