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VSCanada made waves by recently announcing an investigation into possible foreign interference in the election. Its tense relations with China have been closely watched, particularly because of their impact on other Western countries’ relations with Beijing. Russia’s activities were also under surveillance. Fewer people noticed that the ministers also discussed the potential role of the Indian government.

The decision resembles a ripple in a pond after Justin Trudeau’s extraordinary declaration that Canada is pursuing “credible allegations” of a potential link between New Delhi and the murder of a Canadian national, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in British Columbia. British last June. Nijjar had campaigned for an independent Sikh nation – known as Khalistan – to be created from the state of Punjab. Indian authorities had accused him of terrorism and placed a bounty for his arrest. The Canadian intelligence agency reportedly warned him of the threats.

India angrily dismissed Trudeau’s claims as “absurd” and expelled a Canadian diplomat in retaliation for the expulsion of a diplomat described by Ottawa as the head of the intelligence agency Indian in Canada. Assassinations on foreign territory are relatively rare; carrying out one in a so-called friendly country and member of the G7 would be truly astonishing and risky.

This is the kind of activity associated with Moscow and not New Delhi. This is why the impact of the allegations will not be limited to bilateral relations. The Canadian Prime Minister spoke of close collaboration with his allies on this issue. As China has become more powerful and more hostile, the English-speaking intelligence-sharing group “Five Eyes” (Canada, United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand) has grown closer and more viewed India as a necessary counterweight and alternative economic partner. Earlier this year, Ottawa and New Delhi had planned to develop the framework for a trade deal by the end of 2023. That was scrapped; the UK continues to move forward.

For some, the search for better relations with India is just wishful thinking. Just as some in the West once convinced themselves that China’s economic liberalization would lead to political reforms, ignoring all signs to the contrary, some suggested that India was an ideal partner as a democracy – glossing over nationalism and the growing authoritarianism of Narendra Modi. Others have been more pragmatic, counting on common interests, such as limiting China’s growing power and hoping to limit long-standing relations between New Delhi and Moscow; it remained neutral regarding the invasion of Ukraine.

Mr. Trudeau said he raised this matter “personally and directly” with Mr. Modi, and “in clear terms”. That partly explains their frosty meetings at the G20, when, according to Mr. Modi’s office, the Indian prime minister chastised his counterpart for tolerating extremism within Canada’s large Sikh community — a long-standing complaint .

But Mr. Trudeau’s remarks also suggest that raising this issue bluntly and publicly was not his first choice. Associating the killing with “agents of the Indian government” may reflect an indirect and tangled chain of responsibility, but also does not suggest that an order came from above. He continued to call for cooperation. New Delhi’s refusal to respond in kind is bad news for its reputation beyond Canada’s borders and suggests that, whoever Nijjar’s killer is, India is on a trajectory that makes partnership with Western democracies much more difficult.