In a retaliatory move, India has ordered a senior Canadian diplomat exit the country within five days.
This came after Canada expelled an Indian diplomat in an escalating rift over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
In a statement on Tuesday, September 19, 2023, the Indian foreign ministry noted, “The decision reflects the Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”
Relations between Canada and India are sour and this could escalate tensions.
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau stated on Monday, September 18, 2023 that Canadian security agencies were “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking Indian government agents to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar at British Columbia on June 18, 2023.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau averred.
“Canada is a rule-of-law country, the protection of our citizens in defence of our sovereignty are fundamental,” he added.
Trudeau stressed that the alleged killing “is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open, and democratic societies conduct themselves.”
The foreign affairs minister, Mélanie Joly, stated that as a consequence, Canada had expelled a “key Indian diplomat.”
Joly described the diplomat as the head of the Indian intelligence agency in the country.
India dismissed the Canadian accusation as “absurd and motivated” and urged it to instead take legal action against anti-Indian elements operating from its soil.
“We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law,” the statement released by the country’s foreign ministry read.
“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.”India’s Foreign Ministry
According to local police, Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader in western Canada, was shot in his truck by two masked gunmen outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia.
He was a strong advocate of the Khalistan movement, which seeks an independent homeland for Sikhs in India’s Punjab region.
The Khalistan movement is outlawed in India and considered a national security threat by the government.
A number of groups associated with the movement are listed as “terrorist organizations” under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
In 2020, the Indian National Investigation Agency accused Nijjar of “trying to radicalize Sikh community across the world in favor of creation of ‘Khalistan.’”
Last year, New Delhi alleged that Nijjar was part of a plan to murder a Hindu priest in Punjab, offering a bounty of nearly $12,000 (£9,688).
Due to this, many accuse India of playing a role in his assassination.
Canadian police have not arrested anyone in connection with Nijjar’s murder.
U.S And Australia Voice Concerns
U.S National Security Council Spokesperson, Adrienne Watson revealed in a statement that the White House was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.
“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” she said.
Additionally, A Spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister, Penny Wong disclosed that the country is also “deeply concerned” by the allegations.
“We are closely engaged with partners on developments. We have conveyed our concerns at senior levels to India,”
Meanwhile, a Canadian politician, Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, said there must be consequences for the assassination.
“We will ensure that no rock is unturned, that every possible link is examined,” he noted.
The Conservative leader, Pierre Poilievre, said the allegations, if true, “represent an outrageous affront to Canada”, adding that citizens should be free from extrajudicial killings.
He added, “Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil. We call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder, because the truth must come out.”