A day following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim of a possible connection between individuals associated with the Government of India and the assassination of a Khalistan separatist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Canada earlier this year, the diplomatic tension between the two nations escalated further. On Wednesday, the Indian government issued a strongly-worded advisory directed at Indian nationals residing in Canada. The advisory cautioned against engaging in “anti-India activities” and “politically-endorsed hate crimes.”

This advisory comes in response to Canada’s expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat, which was a retaliatory move after India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat. In the advisory released by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) on Wednesday, they stated, “Due to the increasing instances of anti-India activities and politically-supported acts of hatred and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals in the country and those planning to travel there are strongly advised to exercise extreme caution.”

The MEA further elaborated, “Recent threats have specifically targeted Indian diplomats and segments of the Indian community that oppose the anti-India agenda. Therefore, Indian nationals are advised to avoid traveling to regions and venues in Canada where such incidents have occurred.” Additionally, the advisory emphasized the importance of vigilance, particularly for Indian students, given the deteriorating security environment in Canada.

The MEA assured that the Indian High Commission and Consulates General in Canada would maintain communication with Canadian authorities to ensure the safety and well-being of the Indian community in the country. Furthermore, Indian nationals and students were encouraged to register with the High Commission of India in Ottawa or the Consulates General of India in Toronto and Vancouver through their respective websites or the MADAD portal (madad.gov.in) to facilitate communication in case of emergencies or untoward incidents.

By characterizing these issues as “politically-endorsed hate crimes and criminal violence,” Delhi is primarily addressing the actions of the Trudeau government. India has expressed concerns about Canada’s perceived inaction against pro-Khalistan supporters, which is seen as an effort to appeal to the Canadian-Sikh community. India believes this has emboldened pro-Khalistan groups to target the Indian embassy and consulates and incite violence against Indian diplomats.

Typically, such travel advisories result in official visits sanctioned by the Indian government being postponed or canceled. However, private individuals traveling on tourist, business, and student visas are generally unaffected. Implementing such an advisory can be challenging since the two nations share strong people-to-people ties through family connections, education, and business relationships.

Canada is home to one of the largest Indian diasporas globally, comprising 1.6 million people of Indian origin, constituting over 3 percent of the total Canadian population, including 700,000 NRIs (Non-Resident Indians). India has become the leading source of foreign students studying in Canada, with 230,000 Indian students as of 2022. Indian companies are actively engaged in Canada’s information technology, software, steel, natural resources, and banking sectors.

Nevertheless, the advisory serves as a diplomatic measure to reduce travel and as a signal to the business community to limit interactions. Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, Canada, was assassinated by two unidentified assailants outside the gurdwara in June of the same year. He was the leader of the separatist organization known as the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). The National Investigation Agency (NIA) had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to his arrest.

Trudeau had mentioned in a speech in the House of Commons on Monday that Canadian security agencies had been actively investigating credible allegations of a possible connection between agents of the Government of India and the murder of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar over the past few weeks.

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