Following weeks of strained relations between Canada and India, officials and experts claim that mending the frayed diplomatic ties between the two countries will be a lengthy process. Despite India’s recent surprise move to ease some visa curbs on Canadians, both countries have adopted maximalist positions, leading to mutual recriminations and a deep crisis in their relationship. While India’s partial restoration of visa services may have raised some expectations of improved relations, neither side has much incentive to hasten a return to normalcy. This is particularly true given that Canada’s murder investigation proceeds, and Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, prepares for the upcoming national elections in May.
Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, notes that “the relationship is in deep crisis, perhaps its worst ever”. Given the current situation, each side may have a strong interest in ensuring that the crisis does not get out of control. However, there are no strong incentives to resolve the crisis, making the relationship’s mending a long and complex process.
Ajay Bisaria, India’s ambassador to Canada from 2020 to 2022, claims that the relationship is in a “de-escalation phase” following “quiet diplomacy”. However, even with the reprieve, the visa curbs are expected to hinder the movement of tens of thousands of Indians and people of Indian origin who live in Canada or plan to study there.
Although both governments have spared business and trade links, the acrimony has delayed discussions on a free-trade deal and threatens Group of Seven member Canada’s Indo-Pacific plans. New Delhi is critical to efforts to check an increasingly assertive China in the region.