India-Canada halt trade talk after relationship sours over Khalistan-related incidents
New Delhi/ Ontario: In response to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's reprimand over rising secessionist activities and Khalistan-related incidents targeting Indian diplomatic missions in Canada, the Canadian government has decided to postpone a trade mission to India scheduled for October.
Both nations previously aimed to finalize an initial trade agreement this year, but negotiations for a bilateral free trade deal are now reportedly at a standstill.
The trade mission was part of Canada's Indo-Pacific strategy, and India was viewed as an "ideal destination" for this endeavour, emphasizing mutual interests in expanding commercial ties and people-to-people connections.
The strained relations between India and Canada stem from escalating Khalistani activities, particularly in light of Canada's significant Sikh population.
Following a meeting between PM Modi and Trudeau at the G20 summit, India issued a strongly-worded statement expressing "strong concerns" about the ongoing "anti-India activities" by extremist elements in Canada.
It added, "The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats".
The Ministry of External Affairs stated that during the meeting, PM Modi expressed concerns about radical factions that are actively advocating for separatism, fuelling violence against Indian diplomats, vandalizing diplomatic facilities, and endangering the Indian community in Canada as well as their places of worship.
India issued a formal request to the Canadian government last year, urging them to halt the Khalistan referendum organized by a banned group in Ontario.
The Indian government called for action against those advocating terrorism and violence against the world's largest democracy.
The banned organization Sikhs for Justice, led by designated terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, conducted the Khalistan referendum on September 10 in British Columbia, Canada.
Before the G20 Summit in Delhi, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's administration asked for a "pause" in trade discussions with India.
India and Canada initiated trade deal negotiations in 2010, but talks resumed in 2022 after a hiatus of nearly five years, focusing on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. Both countries have conducted numerous rounds of talks on the trade pact.
In March 2022, negotiations were also restarted for an interim agreement known as the Early Progress Trade Agreement (EPTA), which involves a significant reduction or elimination of duties on a wide range of traded goods, relaxed norms to facilitate trade in services and attract investments.