Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday claimed that the Indian government is behind the killing of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a claim that was rejected by the Indian side as “absurd and motivated”. The tensions between India and Canada heightened after Ottawa expelled a top Indian diplomat over this issue.
“Over the past number of weeks, 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, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”, Trudeau said in a statement.
He further asserted that the alleged involvement of a foreign hand or government in the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada was "an unacceptable violation" of their sovereignty. Trudeau also noted that he had raised the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Delhi.
Trudeau further sought the cooperation of the Indian government "to get to the bottom of this matter". "In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the Government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter. I also expect it to reiterate that its position on extra-judicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally in line with international law," he said.
Soon after Trudeau made the claim in Canada’s Parliament, foreign minister Mélanie Joly announced the expulsion of a “top Indian diplomat” as a consequence. Joly’s office identified the diplomat as Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Canada, according to public broadcaster CBC.
"We see this breach of sovereignty as completely unacceptable, and so, that is also why we're coming (out) with this information (of the expulsion of the Indian diplomat) today," Joly said at a news conference.
According to the statement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India has rejected allegations by Canada. "We have seen and rejected the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament, as also the statement by their Foreign Minister. Allegations of the Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated...We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law," the statement said.
MEA added, “Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift 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 inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern. That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organized crime is not new. We reject any attempts to connect the Government of India to such developments. We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil".
Hailing from the Bharsinghpur village in Punjab's Jalandhar, Nijjar was based in Surrey. Nijjar was a Sikh separatist leader, who was sympathetic to the cause of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan Nijjar was wanted in several cases by India and was declared an "absconder" by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).
On 18 June, he was shot at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the city of Surrey in the British Columbia province.
Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India, and the country has been the site of many demonstrations that have irked India.
Canada is also home to one of the largest overseas communities of Indian origin, which number about 1.4 million out of an overall Canadian population of 40 million.
The fresh allegations levelled by the Canadian prime minister will further sour the already strained relations between New Delhi and Ottawa at a time when India is unhappy with Canada's continuous support of the Khalistani movement on its soil. Earlier this month, Canada suspended trade negotiations with India, which were slated to have been concluded by the end of this year. Moreover, during the G20 Summit 2023 in New Delhi last week, PM Modi did not hold bilateral discussions with Trudeau.
Image source: AP