Ties between India and Canada, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s accusation that Indian government agents were behind the killing of Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June 2023, are extremely strained with India stopping visas to Canadian citizens. The withdrawal of 41 Canadian diplomats from India after New Delhi threatened to expel them has only exacerbated the situation. India has denied any involvement in Nijjar’s killing and termed the claim as ‘unsubstantiated’. It has cited parity to demand the reduction of Canadian personnel in India, saying there were concerns about ‘continuous interference’ in India’s internal affairs by the diplomats. Canada has accused India of violating the terms of the Vienna convention and also suspended visa services in its Bangalore, Chandigarh and Mumbai consulates. This has severely affected the prospects of many Indian students aiming to study in Canadian varsities. While the US and UK have backed Canada on the issue of the diplomats’ expulsion and also urged India to cooperate in the Nijjar investigation, it is clear that India is a more valuable ally in the West’s attempt to rein in China.
Half-hearted attempts to dial down the rhetoric by Trudeau, and Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar’s statement that visas to Canadian citizens will be resumed soon after a review of the security situation for Indian diplomats, can be seen as positive developments. With less than two years left for elections, it is clear that the Canadian prime minister is playing to a domestic audience by upping the ante against India. He is facing stiff opposition on the issue of housing, unemployment, etc. His ally in government is the NDP led by Jagmeet Singh, a known Khalistani sympathiser. There is a large Sikh diaspora in Canada and the country is home to the second largest Sikh population in the world after India. While Khalistan hardly merits any conversation in Punjab, it is still a big talking point in Canada and the UK. Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre, who is leading opinion polls in Canada, however, feels Trudeau’s confrontation with India is misplaced. It has certainly been a blow to proposed trade ties. New Delhi has so far acted tough and refused to bow to western pressure on the Nijjar issue. Peaceful ties are, however, the way forward in the interest of the 1.4 million people of Indian origin residing in Canada.
Poland votes for change
In what is seen as one of the most significant elections in Poland in three-and-a- half decades, the ruling Law and Justice (PiS), a conservative right-wing party, that has been in power since 2015, has been edged out by the Opposition Civic Coalition, led by former Prime Minister and former president of the European Council Donald Tusk. Though Law and Justice is the single largest party in the new parliament and may be called by the President first to try to form a government, it is unlikely to be able to do so given that it has no allies. The populist Law and Justice has a strong anti-migrant stance that had stood it in good stead in past elections but its views against abortion and the LGBTQ community saw its electoral support waning, especially among the young and women. The poll turnout was an unprecedented 74%, boosted largely by youth and women voters.
Law and Justice had a huge advantage given its control over Poland’s public broadcasting system, a network of radio and television stations that doled out government propaganda. Added to that was its decision to hold a referendum along with the polls which asked questions on immigration and other issues that were intended to cast the European Union and by extension the Opposition, given Tusk's pro-EU stand, in a bad light. During a vicious campaign, Law and Justice warned the electorate that a vote for its opponents would mean subordinating Poland’s interests to the European Union and ending rule of law in the country. The Tusk-led Opposition, on the other hand, presented Law and Justice as a threat to liberal democracy and the protection of minority rights. The Opposition coalition faces many challenges, but most importantly it has to deliver on its promises on abortion and LGBTQ rights. The Polish election offers parallels to the political situation in India. Is it a harbinger of things to come?