India-Canada diplomatic row escalates

Diplomatic relations between countries often tread a delicate path, requiring constant attention and nurturing to ensure they remain steady. However, in the complex world of international politics, misunderstandings and disputes can sometimes cause these relations to fray. In recent times, the diplomatic relationship between India and Canada has taken an unexpected and contentious turn. What initially began as a disagreement over a matter of internal Indian politics has escalated into a full-blown diplomatic row. This article aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the India-Canada diplomatic row, exploring its origins, key developments, and potential implications.

Origins of the Dispute

The roots of the India-Canada diplomatic row can be traced back to the protests surrounding India’s controversial Farm Laws. In September 2020, the Indian government introduced three agricultural reforms aimed at liberalizing the agricultural sector. While the government argued that these reforms were necessary to modernize agriculture and empower farmers, they were met with significant opposition from various quarters, particularly in the northern states of Punjab and Haryana, where farming is a way of life for many.

The protests against the Farm Laws gained widespread international attention, with many members of the Indian diaspora around the world, including in Canada, expressing solidarity with the protesting farmers. Canada, home to a large Indian diaspora, saw numerous protests and demonstrations in support of the Indian farmers. This initial expression of solidarity set the stage for the diplomatic row that would follow.

The Spark: Trudeau’s Statements

The diplomatic row began when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a series of statements regarding the ongoing protests in India. In December 2020, he expressed his concerns over the situation and called on the Indian government to respect the rights of peaceful protesters. While advocating for the right to peaceful protest is a fundamental democratic principle, these statements did not sit well with the Indian government, which viewed them as interference in its internal affairs.

Trudeau’s comments were seen as a departure from the generally cautious and measured approach that countries usually take when commenting on the internal matters of other nations. The Indian government, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, criticized Trudeau’s remarks, arguing that they amounted to interference in India’s sovereignty and domestic affairs.

India’s Response

In response to Trudeau’s statements, the Indian government issued a formal protest, expressing its displeasure over what it perceived as interference in its internal matters. The Ministry of External Affairs of India stated that it was “unwarranted” for any foreign entity to comment on the situation in India, especially when the Indian government had repeatedly engaged with various stakeholders to address the concerns raised by the protesting farmers.

Furthermore, India summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to India, Nadir Patel, to register its protest formally. The Indian government made it clear that it expected foreign leaders and governments to respect the principles of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries.

Trudeau’s Response

Justin Trudeau, in his response to India’s protests, attempted to clarify his position. He maintained that he had raised concerns about the right to peaceful protest and had always respected India’s sovereignty. However, his comments did little to assuage the Indian government’s concerns.

Trudeau’s attempts to downplay the diplomatic row were further complicated by the actions of some members of the Canadian parliament, who tabled a petition calling on the Canadian government to recognize the farmers’ protests in India as “genocide.” This move drew sharp criticism from India, which saw it as an extreme and unjustified characterization of the situation.

Growing Tensions

The diplomatic row between India and Canada continued to escalate as both sides dug in their heels. The Indian government maintained its position that foreign leaders should refrain from commenting on India’s internal matters, while the Canadian government stood by its stance of advocating for the right to peaceful protest and freedom of expression.

Tensions were further exacerbated when it was revealed that Canada’s Minister of National Defence, Harjit Sajjan, had attended a virtual event organized by a Sikh separatist group that is banned in India. This raised concerns in India about Canadian government officials engaging with individuals and groups that India considers to be promoting separatism and extremism.

The Role of the Indian Diaspora

A significant aspect of this diplomatic row has been the role of the Indian diaspora in Canada. Canada is home to a large and influential Indian community, many of whom have strong ties to India and are actively involved in Canadian politics. The diaspora’s engagement with the farmers’ protests and their vocal support for the Indian farmers has added a layer of complexity to the dispute.

While individuals within the Indian diaspora in Canada have the right to express their opinions and support causes they believe in, their actions have sometimes been seen as amplifying the tension between the two countries. The Indian government has expressed concerns about the influence of certain elements within the diaspora who support separatist movements in India.

The Diplomatic Fallout

As the diplomatic row between India and Canada intensified, both countries took measures to express their displeasure. India temporarily withdrew the diplomatic privileges of Canada’s envoy in Delhi, prompting Canada to reciprocate with similar measures against the Indian envoy in Ottawa. While these measures were largely symbolic, they underscored the deteriorating state of diplomatic relations.

In addition to the tit-for-tat diplomatic actions, both countries also saw a decline in trade and economic cooperation. Canada’s exports to India decreased, and Indian businesses in Canada faced challenges, with some reports suggesting a decline in investments.

Future Implications

The India-Canada diplomatic row has significant implications for both countries and their bilateral relationship. First and foremost, it highlights the delicate balance that countries must maintain when addressing the internal affairs of other nations. The principle of non-interference in internal matters is a cornerstone of international diplomacy, and deviations from this principle can strain relations.

For India, the diplomatic row serves as a reminder of the importance of safeguarding its sovereignty and protecting its internal affairs from external interference. It also underscores the need to engage with the Indian diaspora in a way that promotes positive engagement and discourages extremism and separatism.

For Canada, the row raises questions about the role of the Indian diaspora in Canadian politics and foreign policy. It also highlights the challenges of balancing domestic concerns with international relations, as Canada seeks to maintain its commitment to human rights and freedom of expression while also preserving diplomatic relations with India.


The India-Canada diplomatic row, born out of comments made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau regarding the farmers’ protests in India, has evolved into a complex and contentious dispute. The diplomatic fallout, including the withdrawal of certain diplomatic privileges and a decline in trade, underscores the seriousness of the situation.

This diplomatic row serves as a cautionary tale for countries and leaders who may be tempted to comment on the internal affairs of other nations. It highlights the importance of respecting the principle of non-interference in internal matters and the need for diplomacy to navigate complex and sensitive issues.

As both India and Canada continue to grapple with the consequences of this diplomatic dispute, it remains to be seen whether the two nations can find common ground and mend their strained relations. The resolution of this row will likely require diplomatic finesse and a commitment to dialogue on both sides, as well as a reevaluation of the role of the Indian diaspora in Canada’s foreign policy.

Leave a Comment