Canada links India to slaying of Sikh leader exile, expels intel chief,US reacts

US said it is “deeply concerned” over the accusation made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, linking Indian government agents to the murder of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier today,” US. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” Watson added.

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In an emergency statement of the House of Commons, Trudeau said any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a “Canadian citizen was an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

Canada also said it was “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking Indian government agents to the murder of Nijjar.

“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India” and Nijjar’s death, Trudeau said.

The Canadian PM further claimed that he had raised the murder directly with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi last week, and urged the government of India to “cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”

After Trudeau’s claim in the Canada’s Parliament, the country’s foreign minister Melanie Joly announced the expulsion of a “top Indian diplomat”.

Joly alleged that the top diplomat had credible link to the murder of Nijjar.

‘Absurd and motivated’: India rejects Trudeau’s claims

India rejected Trudeau’s claim calling it “absurd and motivated”.

The External Affairs Ministry of India in a statement said similar allegations were made by Trudeau to PM Modi at a meeting on 10 September and “were completely rejected”.

“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,” the statement said.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead on 18 June in the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the town of Surrey in British Columbia. He was a Canadian citizen and was designated a terrorist by the Indian government in July 2020 for his involvement in pro-Khalistan activities.

Canada on Monday accused India’s government of involvement in the killing of a Canadian Sikh leader near Vancouver last June, and expelled New Delhi’s intelligence chief in Ottawa in retaliation.

The accusations, which India rejected as “absurd,” sent already sour relations between Ottawa and New Delhi to a dramatic new low.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told an emergency session of the parliamentary opposition at mid-afternoon that his government had “credible allegations” linking Indian agents to the slaying of an exiled Sikh leader, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in June in British Columbia.

“The involvement of any foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said.

He called “in the strongest possible terms” on the Indian government to cooperate in clearing up the matter.

Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said the Trudeau government had taken immediate action.

“Today we have expelled a senior Indian diplomat from Canada,” she said, without naming the official.

Joly said the expelled Indian is the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada.

Nijjar, whom India had declared a wanted terrorist, was gunned down on June 18 in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver that is home to a major Sikh community.

Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside of Punjab, India.

Nijjar advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh state to be carved out of parts of northern India and perhaps part of Pakistan.

New Delhi had accused Nijjar of carrying out terrorist attacks in India, a charge he denied.

India’s foreign ministry on Tuesday rejected Canada’s claims of involvement in his death.

“Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” the ministry said in a statement, adding: “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law.”

It said Trudeau – who visited New Delhi this month for the G20 summit – had already made similar allegations to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and that they had been “completely rejected”.

Tensions between India and Canada have been simmering over the unsolved slaying, and Indian unhappiness over how Ottawa has handled right-wing Sikh separatists.

New Delhi accuses Ottawa of turning a blind eye to the activities of Sikh nationalists who seek a separate Sikh homeland in northern India.

A former adviser to Trudeau, Jocelyn Coulon, asserted that Canada’s accusation would have “the effect of a bomb around the world.”

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, who is now an independent researcher.

Tensions between the two nations flared during the G20 summit.

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 separatist movement.

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 India.

Trudeau later told media that Canada would always defend “freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of peaceful protest” while acting against hatred.

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