NEW DELHI: On September 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau triggered a diplomatic row with his explosive allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist
Hardeep Singh Nijjar
on his country's soil.
India vehemently dismissed the accusations as "ridiculous" and "politically motivated," responding with the expulsion of a high-ranking Canadian diplomat in retaliation for Ottawa's earlier expulsion of an Indian official in connection with the incident
In response to Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau's accusations of Indian involvement in the killing, India has temporarily halted its visa services in Canada. With relations under strain, India has issued a precautionary advisory to its citizens and travelers heading to Canada, urging them to exercise extreme caution due to the rising incidents of anti-India activities and politically sanctioned hate crimes and criminal violence in the country.
According to external affairs minister S Jaishankar, Canada has not shared anything specific to support allegations against India's involvement. During an interaction with Indian journalists in Washington on Friday, he said India was ready to look into the information related to Canada's allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar.
“The issue is as follows, which is that the Canadians have made some allegations. We have pointed out to them that this is not the government of India's policy, but if they are prepared to share with us specifics and anything relevant, we are also open to looking at it. So in that sense, that's where the matter stands,” Jaishankar said.
But why did
go ahead with his allegations against India despite not providing any specific proof to support his charges? Is it because of his declining popularity at home? According to a report in the Economist, Trudeau finds himself facing a myriad of challenges that are significantly impacting his popularity and political standing.
Trudeau's approval ratings have plummeted to a historic low of 27%. Several factors contribute to his declining popularity. Both domestic as well as foreign issues are behind Trudeau's declining popularity.
On the domestic front, one of the critical issues affecting Trudeau's standing is the growing discontent among middle-class Canadians, a group he initially pledged to champion. Many feel financially squeezed, particularly due to soaring home prices and a housing market that is increasingly inaccessible. Canada ranks among the most challenging countries in the world to buy a home, with the home-price-to-income ratio rising significantly since Trudeau took office, the Economist report said.
Next, as per the Economist, migration policies are also causing concerns among Canadians. While most citizens are pro-migrant, Trudeau's plans to increase immigration levels have met resistance, especially given the housing challenges the country is facing. Many Canadians believe the proposed migrant targets are too high, contributing to public skepticism.
Additionally, Canada's universal health-care system is strained, with backlogs for essential medical procedures and a shortage of family doctors. Despite government investments in health care, public dissatisfaction has grown, reflecting the deteriorating quality of medical services.
On the global stage, Trudeau's foreign policy challenges extend beyond India. Canada's Nato allies are dissatisfied with the nation's modest defense expenditure, amounting to just 1.29% of its GDP this year. Furthermore, Canada's relations with China have soured following the arrest of two Canadians in 2018, who were imprisoned for nearly three years on dubious charges of espionage, the Economist report said.
Similarly, the diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Canada have only recently started to improve.
Trudeau's response to domestic protests has also stirred controversy, particularly among right-wing factions. His inability to navigate these challenges effectively has contributed to a perception of weak leadership.
Trudeau's diminished popularity is undeniable. He now faces an uphill battle to maintain his political influence and fulfill his ambitions for a fourth consecutive term, as he grapples with an increasingly disillusioned public and a host of pressing issues, the Economist report said.
(With inputs from agencies)