India denies involvement in slaying of Sikh leader in Canada
NEW DELHI, Sept 19, 2023 (BSS/AFP) - India on Tuesday rejected the "absurd"
allegation that its agents were behind the killing of a Sikh leader in
Canada, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's bombshell accusation sent
already sour diplomatic relations to a new low.
Ottawa also expelled a diplomat it described as the head of India's foreign
intelligence service in Canada, prompting a tit-for-tat order from New Delhi
for a Canadian diplomat to leave.
Trudeau said Monday that "credible allegations" linked Indian agents to the
June slaying of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was accused by New Delhi of
carrying out terrorist attacks in India -- a charge he denied before his
New Delhi insisted it had nothing to do with the killing, adding that Prime
Minister Narendra Modi had "completely rejected" the accusation when earlier
raised privately by Trudeau.
"Allegations of Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in
Canada are absurd," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
"We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law."
Nijjar, whom India had declared a wanted terrorist, was gunned down on June
18 in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver home to a large Sikh community.
Canada has the largest population of Sikhs globally outside of India, and New
Delhi has long been unhappy with Canada's handling of Sikh separatist
Nijjar was part of a movement that advocated for the creation of an
independent Sikh state to be carved out of part of northern India and perhaps
part of Pakistan.
India has long claimed that Nijjar was involved in violent attacks on its
soil, including a 2007 bombing that killed six people in the city of
Trudeau made the allegation public before an emergency session of parliament,
calling in the "strongest possible terms" for the Indian government to
cooperate in clearing up the matter.
"The involvement of any foreign government in the murder of a Canadian
citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty," he
Foreign Minister Melanie Joly then announced the expulsion of the local head
of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India's foreign intelligence agency.
India responded by summoning Canada's High Commissioner to the foreign
ministry on Tuesday before announcing a reciprocal expulsion of an unnamed
top Canadian diplomat.
That decision reflected the "growing concern at the interference of Canadian
diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India
activities", the ministry said.
The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi declined to comment when contacted
- Tense G20 meeting -
Tensions between India and Canada have been simmering over the unsolved
slaying, and Indian unhappiness over how Ottawa has handled Sikh separatists.
Jocelyn Coulon, a former adviser to Trudeau who is now an independent
researcher, said Canada's accusation would have "the effect of a bomb around
India will join "the group of nations that assassinate political opponents"
abroad, much as Saudi Arabia orchestrated the murder of journalist Jamal
Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018, said Coulon.
Trudeau was in New Delhi last week for the G20 summit and met privately with
his Indian counterpart but his visit was a testament to the strained ties
between their countries.
Modi expressed "strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of
extremist elements in Canada" during a meeting with Trudeau, according to an
Indian government statement.
India has often complained about activities of the Sikh diaspora abroad,
particularly in Canada, which New Delhi believes could revive a Sikh
The Indian state of Punjab, which is 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu,
was rocked by a violent separatist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, in
which thousands died.
Canada also recently suspended negotiations for a free-trade agreement with
Trudeau later told the media that Canada would always defend "freedom of
expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of peaceful protest" while
acting against hatred.