The Canadian diplomat is expelled by the Modi government following Trudeau’s statement that India played a role in the killing of a Sikh individual.
NEW DELHI (AP) — India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat Tuesday and accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs, escalating a breach with Ottawa over its allegations of Indian involvement in the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada.
The statement was made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau one day after he claimed that there were believable accusations linking India to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Nijjar, a supporter of Sikh independence, was fatally shot on June 18 near a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia. As a response, Canada expelled a high-ranking Indian diplomat. India dismissed the allegations as “ridiculous.”
Since the 1980s, India has been engaged in a struggle against a movement seeking to create a separate Sikh homeland called Khalistan. This conflict was sparked by a raid on separatists within a prominent temple, resulting in the assassination of a prime minister and triggering a series of violent acts targeting Sikhs.
Nijjar was wanted by Indian authorities, who accused the activist of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India and had offered a cash reward for information leading to his arrest. Nijjar was organizing an unofficial referendum on Sikh independence from India at the time of this death.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer and spokesperson for the Sikhs For Justice organization, has said Nijjar had been warned by Canadian intelligence officials about being targeted for assassination by “mercenaries” before he was gunned down.
On Monday, Trudeau informed Parliament that Canadian security agencies were looking into “believable claims of a possible connection between individuals from the government of India and the murder of a Canadian citizen.”
He stated that it is unacceptable for a foreign government to be involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian territory, as it violates our sovereignty.
The accusation made by Canada was deemed by India’s foreign ministry as “absurd and motivated,” and they also accused Canada of providing shelter to “terrorists and extremists.”
In a statement released earlier on Tuesday, it stated that these unverified accusations aim to divert attention from the presence of Khalistani terrorists and extremists in Canada, who are being harbored and pose a threat to India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
India has persistently urged Canada to address the Sikh separatist movement, which is prohibited in India but finds backing in nations such as Canada and the U.K., where significant Sikh diaspora communities exist. Canada is home to over 770,000 Sikhs, constituting approximately 2% of its overall population.
In March, the Indian government called upon the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi, the highest-ranking diplomat in the nation, to express their concerns regarding Sikh independence demonstrations taking place in Canada. Similarly, in 2020, India’s foreign ministry also summoned the top diplomat due to remarks made by Trudeau concerning an agricultural protest movement linked to Punjab state, which is home to a significant Sikh population.
Modi’s Hindu nationalist government is criticized for attempting to silence dissenters and activists through the use of sedition laws and other legal means. Arrests of intellectuals, activists, filmmakers, students, and journalists, among others, have been made, leading Modi’s opponents to claim the existence of an intimidating environment.
The dueling expulsions come amid tense relations between Canada and India. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just canceled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall.
Trudeau told Parliament that he brought up Nijjar’s slaying with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 meeting in New Delhi last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.
During the G20 meeting, Modi conveyed his “serious concerns” regarding Canada’s management of the Sikh separatist movement in a discussion with Trudeau, as stated by India.
Canada was urged to collaborate with India regarding a matter that New Delhi claims poses a danger to the Canadian Indian community. The Sikh movement was characterized as advocating for separation and instigating aggression towards Indian diplomats. Instances of Indian consulate vandalism in London and San Francisco by Khalistan movement supporters were reported earlier this year.
During the G20 summit in New Delhi, Trudeau chose not to attend a dinner hosted by the Indian president. Local media reports suggested that Modi snubbed him by only granting a brief “pull aside” meeting instead of a formal bilateral meeting. Adding to his troubles, Trudeau experienced a delay of 36 hours in leaving India after the summit due to a mechanical issue with his flight. Last week, the India Today website featured a headline stating, “Trudeau’s problematic trip in India continues.”
It is not clear at what specific time Trudeau discussed Nijjar’s case with Modi during the G20.
Certain analysts in India raised doubts regarding Canada’s evidence of Indian connections to the murder, as well as questioning Trudeau’s intentions in seeking support from the Sikh community living abroad.
“I cannot reword”
“I cannot reword”
On Monday Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the expelled Indian diplomat was the head of Indian intelligence in Canada.
Joly mentioned that Trudeau also discussed the issue with President Joe Biden of the United States and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of the United Kingdom.
“I cannot reword”
Jagmeet Singh, the leader of the Canadian opposition New Democrats and a Sikh himself, expressed his disbelief and dismay. He shared that during his upbringing, he often heard anecdotes suggesting that criticizing India’s human rights record could result in visa restrictions for traveling to the country.
Singh expressed his disbelief at the Canadian Prime Minister acknowledging the possibility of a connection between the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian territory and the involvement of a foreign government.
The Nijjar, who is recognized by the World Sikh Organization of Canada, is known for being a vocal advocate of Khalistan. He has frequently organized peaceful demonstrations to condemn human rights abuses occurring in India and to show support for the Khalistan cause.
According to the statement, Nijjar had been openly discussing the danger to his life for several months and claimed that he was specifically singled out by Indian intelligence agencies.
India’s main opposition party issued a statement backing Modi’s position. The Congress Party wrote that “the country’s interests and concerns must be kept paramount at all times” and that the fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising, especially when it threatens the nation’s sovereignty.
In 1984, the Golden Temple in Amritsar city was raided by Indian forces in order to remove Sikh separatists who had sought shelter there. The operation, which has sparked controversy, resulted in the death of approximately 400 individuals according to official records, although Sikh organizations believe the actual number to be greater.
After giving the command for the raid, Indira Gandhi, the prime minister, was later assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards. This event resulted in a sequence of violent incidents known as anti-Sikh riots. During these riots, Hindu mobs systematically targeted Sikhs in northern India, forcibly removing them from their residences, brutally murdering some, and setting others on fire.
This report was contributed to by Aamer Madhani in New York and Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi, with Gillies reporting from Toronto. Associated Press journalists were involved in the contribution.
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