Canada has expelled a senior Indian diplomat as it investigates allegations that India’s government may have been involved in the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada. India has denied any link and called the accusations “absurd and motivated”.
Sikh leader shot dead in Surrey
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader and temple president, was shot dead on June 18, 2023, outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia. He was a vocal supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, which some Sikhs have been demanding since the 1980s.
Nijjar was also accused by India of being the mastermind of a series of terror attacks in Punjab, India’s northern state that is home to most Sikhs. India had sought his extradition from Canada since 2016, but Canada had refused to comply.
Trudeau raises concerns with Modi
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament on Monday that he had raised the issue of Nijjar’s murder with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi at the G20 summit last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.
Trudeau also said that Canadian intelligence agencies have been looking into the allegations after receiving credible information from multiple sources. He did not reveal the nature or origin of the information.
Canada expels Indian spy chief
As a consequence of the allegations, Canada has expelled the head of Indian intelligence in Canada, who was also serving as a diplomat. Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said that this was a serious violation of Canada’s sovereignty and of the basic rules of how countries deal with each other.
Joly also said that Canada was reviewing its bilateral relations with India and that it had canceled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall. She said that Canada would not tolerate any interference or intimidation from any foreign government.
India rejects allegations as absurd
India’s foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday, dismissing the allegations as “absurd and motivated”. It said that such claims were aimed at shifting the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The ministry also said that India was concerned over the inaction of the Canadian government against such elements, who have been promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats. It called on Canada to work with India to address this threat to the Canadian-Indian diaspora.
Tensions rise between Canada and India
The expulsion of the Indian diplomat marks a new low in the relations between Canada and India, which have been strained over several issues in recent years. Trade talks have been stalled, human rights issues have been raised, and cultural differences have been highlighted.
The Sikh community in Canada, which numbers about half a million, has been a source of friction between the two countries. Many Sikhs in Canada support the Khalistan movement, which India considers a terrorist organization. Some Canadian politicians have also expressed sympathy for the cause, which has angered India.
The assassination of Nijjar has added fuel to the fire, as both countries accuse each other of harboring extremists and violating sovereignty. The investigation into his murder is ongoing, but it is unlikely to ease the diplomatic row anytime soon.