Monday, 2 October 2023

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India-Canada tensions hit crisis point after assassination allegations

India-Canada tensions hit crisis point after assassination allegations

Visitors are silhouetted against the dark clouds at Taj Mahal in Agra on September 20, 2022.

Pawan Sharma | Afp | Getty Images

India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat on Tuesday, slamming “absurd and motivated” claims that New Delhi had a part to play in an extra-judicial slaying of a Sikh activist in Canada.

Canadian intelligence agencies have been actively pursuing credible links between Indian government agents and the murder of a Canadian Sikh community leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a Sikh cultural center in British Columbia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told a parliament seating in Ottawa Monday.

Nijjar, a strong supporter for an independent Sikh homeland named Khalistan, was killed on June 18.

“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,” India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement. “The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern.”

In retaliation, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after summoning Canada’s High Commissioner to the country, the foreign ministry said. This came just hours after Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced that Ottawa had expelled a top Indian diplomat.

“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government,” Trudeau said Monday. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

While Canadian leaders stopped short of explicitly accusing India, they urged Indian authorities to fully cooperate in the investigations, with Joly emphasizing that Canada “will not tolerate any form of foreign interference.”

Australia said it was “deeply concerned” about Canada’s allegations, while the United Kingdom said it’s in close contact with its Canadian partners over the matter.

Diaspora tensions

Activism in Canada among some of its Sikh diaspora, which accounts for about 2% of its population, has been an issue of contention in bilateral ties between Canada and India.

It has complicated Ottawa’s attempts to deepen economic ties with the world’s most populous nation as part of its broader attempt to “de-risk” from China, along with its western allies.

India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) shakes hand with Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of the G20…

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