India and Canada have expelled a diplomat apiece, as the latter accused the former of being behind the assassination of separatist leader Hardeep Singh Najjar in British Columbia in June. This is no ordinary spat, for one country is accusing the other of having killed one of its own citizens on its own soil. It doesn’t get much worse than this. What would be worse would be if Canada was to allow India to get away with this. It says it has informed its allies, but past precedents, such as North Korean or Russian assassinations, do indicate that the countries of the world will try to carry on as usual.
It would be unfortunate if fears of losing access to a huge (albeit impoverished) market and one of the world’s fast-growing economies lead the world community to do what it has been doing so far to examples of Indian bad behaviour, which is to pretend that nothing has happened. The Canadian murder is not the first incident where India has tried to take its domestic agenda abroad: there was the 2022 Hindu-Muslim rioting in Leicester, UK, fomented by the Indian government. In Canada, the Sikhs are important enough politically for one, Jagmeet Singh ‘Jimmy’ Dhaliwal, to head its third party, the Free Democrats. Overall, the immigrant vote goes to the ruling Liberals, so for it to take such action is not just racist xenophobia. The problem seems not to be Indians taking domestic issues with them (the Hindu-Muslim thing, as in Leicester; the Khalistan Movement, as in Nijjar’s murder), but the BJP government taking part, or even initiating, the violence, as in this case.
One major reason Canada needs to come down hard on this is that it does not want to give the impression that there is a free-for-all there, that foreign spies can just come in and do what they want. Countries with large Indian diasporas need to think carefully about how much they court the BJP. The diasporas contain a lot of BJP supporters, Does that mean a free hand for any sort of behaviour. The USA and the Gulf countries in particular need to be careful. Pakistan needs to point out, much more vigorously than it has done so far, how a country which never tires of accusing it of terrorism, is itself guilty of that crime.