Ottawa Tells Travellers to India to Exercise Caution Due to Shifting Mood Toward Canadians

A new travel advisory for Canadians travelling to India recommends they 'exercise a high degree of caution' amid recent tensions.
Ottawa Tells Travellers to India to Exercise Caution Due to Shifting Mood Toward Canadians
An Indian paramilitary soldier stands guard next to a police barricade outside the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, India, on Sept. 19, 2023. Tensions between India and Canada are high after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government expelled a top Indian diplomat and accused India of having links to the assassination in Canada of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
Noé Chartier

Global Affairs Canada has updated its travel advisory for India to reflect recent tensions between Ottawa and New Delhi, suggesting the mood toward Canadians has soured.

“In the context of recent developments in Canada and in India, there are calls for protests and some negative sentiment towards Canada on social media,” says the advisory, last updated on Sept. 24. “Please remain vigilant and exercise caution.”

Otherwise, the advisory tells prospective travellers in general to “exercise a high degree of caution,” noting some regions are to be avoided altogether due to the usual risks of terrorism and insurgency, such as in Jammu and Kashmir.

The notice from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) came a few days after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused India on Sept. 18 of being involved in the killing of a Sikh secessionist on Canadian soil last June.

Relations between Ottawa and New Delhi have since rapidly deteriorated. Signs of tensions, however, had appeared during Mr. Trudeau’s visit to India earlier in September for the G20 meeting, where he raised the allegations with his counterpart, Narendra Modi.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had also issued an advisory for Indian students and its nationals visiting Canada on Sept. 20, urging them to “exercise utmost caution” in view of “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada.”
The next day, MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said India had stopped issuing all types of visas to Canadians.

“You are aware of the security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada. This has disrupted their normal functioning,” said Mr. Bagchi, to justify the measure.

India has also requested Ottawa reduces the number of its diplomats in-country, in addition to expelling a Canadian diplomat in retaliation for Canada declaring the unit head of its intelligence service in Canada persona non grata.

Meanwhile, GAC said it reduced its diplomatic presence due to some diplomats receiving threats on social media platforms.

India’s MEA has called Mr. Trudeau’s accusations “absurd and motivated,” and its spokesperson Mr. Bagchi said they appear to be “primarily politically driven.” New Delhi has long criticized Ottawa for not clamping down on Sikh separatists living in Canada.

The Canadian prime minister has not provided much detail, only to say security agencies are pursuing “credible allegations” of Indian agents having a “potential link” to the shooting death of Sikh community leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C.

Government officials have leaked some details in the media to explain how the information was sourced, after Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre and others demanded more information from Mr. Trudeau.

Washington has also stepped in to backstop Ottawa after initially offering measured words of support to Canada as it seeks stronger ties with New Delhi. India’s External Affairs minister is scheduled to be in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 27–30 to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken.
U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Cohen told CTV News on Sept. 22 that intelligence coming from a Five Eyes partner had informed Canada’s understanding of India’s alleged involvement.

“There was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made,” said Mr. Cohen.

“There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that's as far as I'm comfortable going.”

The U.S. has the most extensive intelligence capabilities within the alliance, which includes Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K, but the source of the information hasn’t been disclosed.