A top Canadian navy official said there’s no sign the diplomatic standoff between India and Canada over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader has impacted military-to-military cooperation between the two nations.
Speaking during a port call to Singapore on Monday, the Commander of Canadian Fleet Pacific, Commodore David Mazur, said he held “friendly meetings” with Indian officials on the sidelines of a maritime conference in Sri Lanka last week. The discussions involved regional security matters as well as priorities for their respective navies, he said.
“From defense diplomacy and security there hasn’t been an impact.” he told reporters. “There’s diplomatic and there’s obviously government-to-government challenges being faced right now, but the big part is for us to maintain communications and we find different ways of doing that.”
Ties between Canada and India turned acrimonious last month after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged New Delhi had orchestrated the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who pushed for an independent Sikh homeland in northern India.
India’s government described the allegations as “absurd” while Canadian authorities haven’t made the details public due to an ongoing murder investigation. Both countries have expelled senior diplomats from the other side, while India suspended processing visas for Canadian citizens.
A senior Canadian military officer last month joined an India-hosted conference of army chiefs in New Delhi, signaling the two nations were cooperating on defense and security despite the tensions. Indian officials have said the accusation has barely affected the South Asian nation’s diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific region.
Canada’s claims come at a time when Western powers have been aggressively courting India as fears rise about China’s growing economic and military might in Asia. For its part, Canada pledged in a recently published strategy for the Indo-Pacific region, to raise its presence in the region, including by growing ties with India across a range of areas.
“That’s what we’re doing here in Singapore as well with the port visit and everything else,” Mazur said. “So there hasn’t been a significant impact at the security level with India.”