Canada Probes Allegations of India's Role in Sikh Activist's Assassination

02:15 19.09.2023

OTTAWA - Canada has accused Indian government agents of being involved in the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. In response, Canada has expelled a senior Indian intelligence official, marking a significant deterioration in bilateral ties between the two countries. The Canadian government is already facing criticism from India for not cracking down on Sikh protesters advocating for an independent Sikh homeland.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau condemned any foreign government's involvement in the killing of a Canadian citizen as an "unacceptable violation of our sovereignty." Nijjar, a supporter of an independent Khalistani state, was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. In July 2020, he was designated as a terrorist by India. Canadian security agencies have been actively investigating credible allegations of a potential link between Indian government agents and Nijjar's death.

Trudeau, in an emergency statement to the House of Commons, said that Canada has expressed its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government. He personally raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 summit, urging cooperation in the investigation.

India's high commission (embassy) in Ottawa has not responded to requests for comment. However, last week, Modi conveyed strong concerns about protests in Canada against India to Trudeau. Canada has a significant Sikh population, with approximately 1.4 million people of Indian origin residing in the country. This has led to frequent demonstrations in Canada that have irked India.

The two countries, who were previously in talks for a trade deal, have now frozen negotiations following the worsening of bilateral ties. Bilateral trade between Canada and India in 2022 amounted to just C$13.7 billion out of a total of C$1.52 trillion.

Although Trudeau did not directly accuse India of definite involvement in Nijjar's murder, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly used cautious language, saying that if the allegations were proven true, they would be unacceptable. Joly confirmed that Canada has expelled the head of Indian intelligence in the country but provided no further details.

Trudeau urged India to cooperate with Canada to uncover the truth in the matter. Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc stated that several senior Canadian government officials had visited India recently to express Ottawa's concerns.

In April, India had asked Britain to increase monitoring of UK-based supporters of the Sikh separatist movement after protesters carrying Khalistan banners detached the Indian flag from the diplomatic mission's building in London.

The investigation into Nijjar's assassination and the allegations of Indian government involvement are ongoing, with Canada demanding transparency and justice. Opposition leaders in Canada, Pierre Poilievre of the Conservative Party and Jagmeet Singh of the New Democratic Party, have also called for a thorough investigation and accountability if the allegations are proven true.

The Indian Embassy in Ottawa has yet to respond to requests for comment on the matter.

/ Tuesday, September 19, 2023, 2:15 AM /

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