Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, has stirred controversy by stating that there are “credible allegations” suggesting India’s government may have been involved in the fatal shooting of a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia back in June. This assertion has led to a hostile response from New Delhi, resulting in diplomatic expulsions and exacerbating tensions between the two G20 nations.
Citing intelligence from national security services, Trudeau informed the Canadian Parliament that authorities were actively investigating whether “agents” of the Indian government played a role in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver known for its sizable Sikh community.
Trudeau emphasized, “Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen. Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
During the G20 summit in New Delhi, Trudeau also raised these allegations with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In response, Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat, with Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly stating, “We will protect Canadians at all times, and we expect India’s full collaboration to get to the bottom of this.”
However, India’s government swiftly dismissed Trudeau’s claims, labeling them as “absurd and motivated.” India’s external affairs ministry issued a statement asserting that similar allegations were previously made by the Canadian Prime Minister to their Prime Minister, only to be entirely rejected. They emphasized India’s commitment to the rule of law and democracy.
India also took reciprocal action, asking a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country. Their decision was based on concerns about Canadian diplomats interfering in India’s internal matters and involvement in what they termed “anti-India activities.”
Tensions between India and Canada have been longstanding, exacerbated by differences between their respective leaders. In 2020, India accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs when Trudeau expressed support for protesting farmers opposing Modi’s agricultural reforms. Moreover, the two nations recently halted talks on a proposed free trade agreement.
Canada is home to a significant Sikh population, with many residing in areas like Surrey and Brampton. Some Sikh Canadians support the Khalistan independence movement, which aims to establish a sovereign state in India’s Punjab state. India has consistently condemned this movement, accusing Canada of harboring Sikh separatists who pose threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh nationalist, remains contentious, with the World Sikh Organization of Canada characterizing it as an “assassination” and urging Ottawa to investigate India’s potential involvement. While British Columbia police identified three suspects, no arrests have been made to date.
Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s New Democratic Party and a Sikh, pledged to pursue justice vigorously and hold Narendra Modi accountable if necessary. Trudeau’s minority government relies on the support of the New Democratic Party for its governance.
Protests in Canada and other countries in support of the Khalistan movement have irked Modi’s government, with demonstrators even targeting Indian diplomatic missions in San Francisco and London.
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Image Source: ABC News