The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Why Canada Is Having A Diplomatic Crisis With India

A Sikh activist was killed in Canada. The Canadian government claims he was killed by India. Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau has made this accusation himself, and the dispute saw an exchange of diplomatic expulsions.

This is the sort of thing that governments tend to wink on, unless they don’t like the other side, so why is Canada making such a big fuss?

Simple enough, Canada has a huge number of Sikh immigrants. They started coming in the 70s, and they’re politically powerful. They’ve done well in Canada (and are well thought of, over all.)

Canada has no significant trade ties to India. Imports and exports as of 2020, were about 20 billion Canadian. That’s peanuts.

So we have no interests that matter with India, and we have a large minority which feels oppressed in India (because they are, especially under Modi.) Sikhs have a long-simmering desire for their own state, as well, and a tradition of violence, so it’s not surprising the Indian government worries about them. Back in 1985 an Air India jet was blown up in the air by Sikh terrorists.

So, fundamentally, what Canada thinks of India doesn’t matter much to India and what India thinks of Canada doesn’t matter much to Canada, but both nations have powerful domestic political reasons to be willing to row.

One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom-fighter.

This is the same reason that Canada has been so pro-Ukraine. Canada has a huge Ukrainian community, and Russia competes with us: we sell the same things, and we have competing claims in the Arctic.

Again, it’s a domestic issue and what Russia thinks of Canada really doesn’t matter much, nor vice-versa.

(Our dispute with China is far more stupid.)

The Americans are very keen to use India as a counter-weight against China, as is the West in general, which is why Canada hasn’t received much support, but that doesn’t really matter: India isn’t going to make its decision on cooperation with the US based on how much it likes Canada and unlike Turkey pressuring Sweden and Finland on Turkish “terrorists” or they won’t let them into NATO, there’s nothing Canada really needs from India.

All of which is to say, for both India’s Modi and Canada’s Trudeau a fight over Sikhs is a winner domestically, with no serious international consequences, so why not?

Edit: India has stopped visas for Canadians. Canada has two million citizens of Indian descent and sends over 750K tourists to India a year. This is an attempt to put domestic pressure on the Canadian government.

It’s also worth noting that India has a record of killing overseas Sikh activists, though usually in south-east Asian countries. So the allegation isn’t that far fetched.

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Money Is Not Wealth


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 24, 2023


  1. Soredemos

    Canada has a huge former Nazi collaborator population, more like. The US has a not-insignificant number of them as well. I’ve really lost patience with the entire genre of immigrant who never lets the old country go and is essentially just a parasite trying to direct their new host countries into pursuing some odd world revanchist grudge.

  2. Willy

    One powerful ethnic group influencing national policy against a nation not deemed all that important for the nation? Seems quasi-functional to me.

    Try living in a nation where a single man can shut down the entire government just because he thinks doing so will stall his criminal trial. Now that’s fucked up.

    I’m starting to see videos about how Canada’s been planning for trying to maintain with a FUBAR superpower on its main border.

  3. Purple Library Guy

    Well, that’s politics.
    I don’t really have a problem with the kerfuffle happening. If the Indian government did, indeed, have a Canadian citizen murdered, I’m fine with getting on their case about it. Sure, of COURSE Trudeau is taking advantage of this to wrap himself in the flag and look strong and try to get a bump in the polls. But there’s nothing particularly weird about that. It would be far weirder if he didn’t; give PP or even Jagmeet the same chance and they’d take it in a heartbeat.

    I don’t really have a problem with the visa thing either. So Canadians of Indian extraction will go to India to visit relatives a bit less . . . fine by me, they’ll spend more of their money in Canada and spend less time hanging with people who are still fine with arranged marriages and castes and “honour” killings.

  4. different clue

    I have often heard the saying that one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.
    I have also seen attempts to craft an operational and functional definition of terrorism which would permit dispassionate analysis beyond the reach of the saying noted above.

    The best approach to such a definition that I have seen is the concept that terrorism is the pursuit of actions designed to scare a target or outrage a target or offend a target into doing something against the target’s own long-term self-interests when the pursuer of those actions is not strong enough to make the target take those actions by plain brute force.

    So the spectacular bombings and stuff carried out by Begin and his Irgun against British positions and personnel in British Mandate Palestine were not designed to force the British forces out by brute force because Irgun was not strong enough to achieve a brute-force force-out of British forces. The attacks were designed to enrage the British forces into attacking many or all the proto-Israeli Jews in British Palestine Mandate, in order to get all those ordinary proto-Israeli Jews to hate Britain ( or hate it more than before) and add their own violence to Irgun violence against British forces, in order to create a spiral of making the British Palestine Mandate ungovernable.

    The mainstream proto-Israeli Jewish leadership in British Mandate Palestine got out ahead of Irgun by assisting the British authorities in finding and arresting all possible
    prosecutable Irgun operatives within the borders of British Mandate Palestine.

    Or so I have read.

    Likewise, we could call 9/11 a terrorist attack, or maybe an enrage-ist attack, designed to enrage America into actions which al Quaeda was not strong enough to force America into by pure brute force. And it worked.

    ( By the way, the anthrax attacks of a few days later were domestic terrorism by American operatives against American government figures and facilities designed to terrorise and terrify the Senate into passing the so-called Patriot Act. Since no intelligence community propagandists were dumm enough to think that the anthrax attacks could be blaimed on al Quaeda or Taliban or “Muslims”, they have tried to memory-hole the anthrax attacks altogether and hope nobody remembers them or discusses them at all. Those anthrax attacks were operational terrorism in action).

  5. capelin

    @Purple Library Guy

    “So Canadians of Indian extraction will go to India to visit relatives a bit less . . . fine by me, they’ll spend more of their money in Canada and spend less time hanging with people who are still fine with arranged marriages and castes and “honour” killings.”

    A couple million common people affected by nothing to to with them, by elephants fighting. Your Imperial, sweeping, disconnected, casual hubris is, what it is.

    It seems like a big motivator for this to be happening now is a publicity play to the general Canadian voting public – now Trudeau is the “valiant defender of Canada against gun-totin’ for-ners”, instead of in reality being a bought-and-paid-for Chinese tool.

    And Modi is like, swat, swat.

    I’m also curious about the passport holdup and the travel advisory about parts of Canada not being safe – seems designed to piss off his own voters (both the travelers and those they would visit). Not sure the gain, though I guess on the scale of India small numbers, to the Elites.

  6. Purple Library Guy

    Give me a break. We’re not talking about people losing their jobs or bank accounts, just not being able to pick a vacation destination. And if they can afford trips to India they’re not THAT common. Won’t somebody please think of the people who might have to go to Bamff or Hawaii instead? The horror!

    Justin Trudeau is a bought and paid for oil company tool, who once in a while takes a short bit of time off. But he doesn’t grovel enough to suit them so they back Conservatives anyway. China? Pffft. Stupid nonsense.

  7. Don Cafferty

    My impression of this article is that it is written to be simplistic and dismissive. I don’t want to pretend that I am expert. Nonetheless, based on other reading, the issue between Canada and India is long standing and extends at least as far back as the bombing of Air India Flight 182 in 1985. Both the older Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau and the current Prime Minister Mr. Trudeau have refused requests for extradition to India even when an Interpol arrest warrant exists.

    It seems that the current conflict has become personalized and (partially) centers on Mr. Trudeau himself. He seems to have a propensity to lecture other heads of state about democracy and freedom at the same time as doing the opposite at home such as what occurred in the truckers strike. It may be recalled that when Mr. Trudeau and his family arrived for vacation in India 4 years ago, he and his family departed from the plane wearing Indian garb. He did not introduce himself to the head of state until the end of his vacation. Very likely, various diplomatic protocols were broken by Mr. Trudeau during this trip. While I don’t know the details, Mr. Trudeau may personally have been involved in the agitation for the independence of Kalistan either when in India or from outside. A lot of India’s wrath is directed at Mr. Trudeau and not at the people of Canada.

  8. StewartM


    I’ve really lost patience with the entire genre of immigrant who never lets the old country go and is essentially just a parasite trying to direct their new host countries into pursuing some odd world revanchist grudge.

    I see your point; particularly when they were (very often) part of the caste or class (very often, upper caste or class) that had created the problems in their countries which in turn caused the turmoil that caused them to flee, and thus not representative of the majority of the people ‘back home’. Cuban expats are the classic example, Polish expats another (virulently anti-Russian who somehow forget that it was the Russians who saved Poland from the Nazis, who had literally planned to exterminate the entire Polish nation and culture). The American Irish helped fund the IRA’s attacks in Northern Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s, as I recall, making the US a “supporter of terrorism” by its own criteria.

    I think you once replied similarly about Vietnamese expats, and yes, some of the ones here do oppose the current regime and actually there were some arrests in Vietnam of US expats years back accused being part of a US-hosted group which was trying to undermine the current regime, supported by Vietnamese-Americans. My impression however is that most have accepted the status quo, though they ‘don’t like Hanoi”, as one of them growled at me. There are tensions within Vietnam too, between Southerners and Northerners dating back to that war, which I sometimes think provides a useful analogy to the US’s own Civil War dating back 150 years ago.

  9. Feral Finster

    Didn’t Sikh bodyguards also assassinate Indira Gandhi?

    Anyway, what surprises me is that the United States seems to be taking the side of Canada in this, regardless of facts or evidence.

    Canada is a bought and paid for puppet. Nothing that the United States says or does will affect Canadian sniveling or slavishness.

    India, on the other hand, is The New Cookie, the girl that the United States wants to join its stable.

  10. Mark Level

    I’ll second what Sorodemos said about old revanchists demanding you support their outmoded wars or jihads of several decades back. Canada’s clearly full of Nazi swastika lovers, see the Vice Premier Chrystia Freeland’s Monument to the Victims of Communism. (Which directly lists SS officers & troops as “victims”!) I live here in northern Minnesota and a short time back had to step away from an outdoor gardening group I was associated with at the Unitarian Church ‘coz an insane older Finnish American dude harassed me about not being down with the latest Neocon Crusade, the usual (brainwashed) Why do you love Putin so much taunts. The little bit of discussion we had before I stepped away, he said that the Finns opposed Russia back in the WW II era and that was “good”, also told me “Most Russians are bad people” though I doubt he knows many, if any!! I told him about living in Nicaragua for 4 months in 1983-84 when Contras were killing, raping, burning down peoples crops, etc. & why I could never support the Empire after seeing its victims face to face (including meeting a 30-some year old Chilean who had a prosthesis for half of one leg because of whatever torture the Pinochet regime did to him in prison.) What happened in Latin America 40 years ago was of no interest to him, I guess he writes “those people” off for being brown-skinned and deserving to be a slave/ oppressed class because “we whites” are better!! (Same attitude to Palestinians, I’m sure, in fact I directly called him out on that in an email explaining why he’d harassed me out, he didn’t deign to respond to that point.) I’m pretty confident that the Gandhi quote, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind” (which doesn’t mean I’m a pacifist, we’re ALL entitled to self defense against predators) is legit and applies here. PS– thank you to Capelin for calling out PLG’s Kick down attitude toward Sikhs & other immigrants in Canada. I expect folks at “the Daily Kos”, MSDNC or Fox to shit all over the ordinary folks just trying to survive. A little disappointed to see that kind of arrogant rancor (perhaps even hate?) on display at this website. Oh yeah, support the demagogues like Trudeau, they’re so amusing & so much fun . . . They’ll amuse us to death one day.

  11. bojackhorsemeat

    This all feels about right – although useful to note that our small amount of trade is likely due to the whole CANDU/nuclear weapon fiasco (which again, no one else in the world seemed to care about). Like that time, Canada was “right” but that doesn’t mean much.

    I would expect that Trudeau is also hoping this is a no-cost way to kick out a lot of Indian students as a temporary relief on housing problems.

  12. Ian Welsh

    Yes, the issue is a longstanding domestic one. I was a kid in the 70s, and I remember the huge influx of Sikhs. It is a longstanding one exactly because it is domestic, same way India is freaking out because their Sikh issue is a longstanding one.

    Indira Gandhi ordered the assault on the Golden Temple, the most sacred place in Sikhism. She was warned not to keep her Sikh bodyguards after doing so and she over-ruled the advice and paid the price.

  13. Carborundum

    I generally agree, but I would put it even more strongly. This is likely much less an issue of “why not” than it is “have to”. Literally everything this government has done since the end of the summer is about strengthening their electioneering hand. The folks who did well out of the shuffle were uniformly in swing ridings (particularly with the NDP). Just under 10% of Liberal MPs are of Sikh extraction – I haven’t run the demos for their ridings, but I’d bet Sikhs materially over-index in most or all of them.

    This government just amazes me. I’ve spent two plus decades seeking to influence Federal policy and I have never seen a group more uniformly terrible at implementation and tone deaf in messaging to non-believers. Do you know how bad you have to be to burn through 2015’s tower of good will and make Pierre Polievre poll this well ? That’s some epic non-performance.

  14. Jorge

    I have long held that real foreign policy is done in secret and announced later, and that any foreign policy posturing in the media is entirely for domestic consumption.

  15. Purple Library Guy

    @Mark Level . . . You’re accusing me of “kicking down” but you don’t even seem to have parsed who I would hypothetically have been kicking down AT. Which would be, um, well off Canadian Hindus, not Sikhs, since the Sikhs almost certainly support Trudeau’s actions and implicitly are probably willing to live with Modi’s retaliations?

    But that ain’t kicking down. I know some people who go to visit their relatives in India; they and/or their families are all better off than I am. So between that and you mistaking who’s who, I have no idea what the hell you think you’re talking about.

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