Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has accused the Indian government of involvement in the killing of a pro-Khalistan activist on Canadian soil, sparking a diplomatic row between the two countries. Trudeau made the statement in the House of Commons on Monday, saying, “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” He also announced that Canada had expelled a top Indian diplomat over the issue.
Who was the victim?
The victim was Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a known Khalistan backer who was killed outside a gurudwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18 by two masked gunmen. Nijjar was wanted by India for allegedly plotting terror attacks in Punjab and was also accused of running a terror camp in Canada. His supporters have been blaming India for his death, though no evidence has been produced.
How did India react?
India has strongly denied any role in Nijjar’s killing and called Trudeau’s allegations “baseless and unfounded”. The Ministry of External Affairs summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to India and lodged a formal protest against Trudeau’s remarks. India also said that it was “unfortunate” that Canada had expelled its diplomat without any justification. India also reiterated its concerns about the anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada, who are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats and the Indian community.
What is the background of the dispute?
The relations between India and Canada have been strained over the issue of Khalistan, a separatist movement that seeks to create an independent Sikh state in Punjab. India considers Khalistan a threat to its territorial integrity and national security, while Canada has a large Sikh diaspora that includes some Khalistan sympathizers. Trudeau has been accused of pandering to the Khalistani lobby for political gains, especially during his controversial visit to India in 2018, when he met with a convicted Khalistani terrorist. India has also raised the issue of Khalistan with Trudeau during his recent visit to Delhi for the G20 Summit, where Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed his “strong concerns” to him.
Is there more to Trudeau’s statement?
Some analysts have suggested that Trudeau’s statement may be a distraction from his domestic troubles, as he faces a tough parliament session and criticism over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, the economy, and the environment. Opposition leader Pierre Poilievre has already attacked Trudeau over the issue of affordability and is expected to challenge him on other fronts. Trudeau may also be trying to appease his Sikh voters ahead of the next federal election, which is due by October 2023.