GURMANT GREWAL was a member of the Canadian parliament thrice and was the first Sikh to hold the position of the deputy house leader of the official opposition of Canada. Grewal and his wife, Neena, were the first couple to serve in the House of Commons of Canada at the same time. When India-Canada bilateral relationship hit rock bottom in 1998 following India’s nuclear tests, he served as a bridge between the two countries. In an exclusive interview with THE WEEK, Grewal speaks about the Nijjar murder controversy and its likely impact on India-Canada ties. Excerpts:
Q\ How do you look at the latest crisis?
A\ I hope we can move forward and address the issue. In 1998, when India conducted the nuclear tests, Canada complained to the United Nations. Diplomatic relations were broken and Canada imposed sanctions on India. After Stephen Harper was defeated in 2015, it has been a roller-coaster ride. I think the lacuna has been in communication, transparency and planning. The values of India and Canada are the same―democracy and freedom of expression. In Canada, the separatist side has to make their voice heard in a peaceful manner. The Quebec referendum in 1996-1997 was held in the same way. They are allowed to be heard, be it the Uyghurs or even the Khalistanis, if they do it in a peaceful manner. I believe a better communication channel is required. No country will like it if there is a killing on its soil. We don’t know the details, but we need transparency.
Q\ There are questions about how Nijjar was granted citizenship.
A\ In my opinion, once he became a Canadian citizen, his papers would have gone through the scrutiny of the process, and his background is irrelevant.
Q\ Prime Minister Trudeau’s ratings are low. Could the latest crisis be a political move, rather than a diplomatic one?
A\ Trudeau’s ratings are lower, but the official opposition party did not oppose his statement. They also said that the evidence should be made public.
Q\ Do you think this might affect trade ties?
A\ Both India and Canada said that trade negotiations should be concluded this year. But those are on a pause.
Q\ Canada has accused China of interfering in its internal affairs.
A\ In 1998, I was privy to documents on China’s interference. A committee has been formed to look at the interference of China with a new chairman and it is expected to start work soon. There are allegations against North Korea and Russia. I fear that they will investigate and include India, too, in the list.