Sikh Leader’s Murder: Canada suspects India link, Delhi denies
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities were "actively pursuing credible allegations" linking New Delhi's agents to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, a concern India dismissed as "absurd".
The spat deals a fresh blow to diplomatic ties that have been fraying for years, with New Delhi unhappy over Sikh separatist activity in Canada. It now threatens trade ties too, with talks on a proposed trade deal frozen last week.
Each nation also expelled a diplomat in tat-for-tat moves, with Canada throwing out India's top intelligence agent there while New Delhi responded by giving a Canadian diplomat five days to leave.
Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen was "an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty", Trudeau told the House of Commons in an emergency statement on Monday.
He was referring to Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, shot dead outside a Sikh temple on June 18 in Surrey, a Vancouver suburb with a large Sikh population, three years after India had designated him as a "terrorist".
Nijjar supported a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent, so-called state of Khalistan in India's northern state of Punjab, the birthplace of the Sikh religion, which borders Pakistan.
"The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that, we are not looking to provoke or escalate," Trudeau told reporters yesterday.
India's foreign ministry said yesterday it had given the Canadian diplomat five days to leave the country, without disclosing his name or rank.
"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," it said in a statement.
The ministry had summoned Cameron MacKay, Canada's high commissioner, or ambassador, in New Delhi to notify him of the move, it added.
Earlier, New Delhi urged Ottawa to take action against anti-Indian elements in Canada.
"Allegations of the government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated," it said, adding that similar accusations made by Trudeau to Prime Minister Narendra Modi had been "completely rejected".
The United States and Australia expressed "deep concern" over Canada's accusations, while Britain said it was in close touch with its Canadian partners about the "serious allegations".
Trudeau said he had raised the matter directly with Modi on the sidelines of G20 summit in New Delhi on September 9 and 10, and had urged his government to co-operate with Canada to resolve it.
Modi, in turn, conveyed strong concern to Trudeau over recent demonstrations in Canada by Sikhs calling for an independent state.
Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside the Indian state of Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.
Khalistan is an independent Sikh state whose creation has been sought for decades. A Sikh insurgency killed tens of thousands of people in India in the 1980s and early 1990s before it was suppressed by tough security action.
However, New Delhi has been wary of any revival, with a particular focus on small groups of Sikhs in Australia, Britain, Canada and the United States, who support the separatist demand and occasionally stage protests outside its embassies.