Canada accuses India of killing Khalistani supporter Hardeep Singh Nijjar: What we know so far. Top updates4 min read 19 Sep 2023, 08:20 AM IST
Canadian PM Trudeau accuses India of involvement in the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Relations between the two countries have been strained, with trade talks derailed and protests in Canada against India.
In a blunt allegory of the relations between Canada and India, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has expelled a top Indian diplomat as he accused the Indian government agents of killing Khalistan supporter Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June this year.
How India responded?
According to the statrement by the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), India has rejected allegations by Canada. India has also asked a senior Canadian diplomat ordered to leave the country. The High Commissioner of Canada to India was summoned today and informed about the decision of the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India. The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days.
"We have seen and reject the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament, as also the statement by their Foreign Minister. Allegations of Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated...We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law," the MEA said.
MEA added, “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. That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new. We reject any attempts to connect Government of India to such developments. We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil".
Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Sikh separatist leader, who was sympathetic to the cause of an independent Sikh state called Khalistan, carved out of India.
On 18 June, he was shot at the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the city of Surrey in the British Columbia province.
There were suspicions raised by local community members that there may have been foreign interference in the murder of the Sikh separatist leader.
The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) took the conduct of the investigation. And, on Monday, after months of investigation, Trudeau accused India of killing Nijjar.
Modi and Trudeau relations
In the recently held G20 Summit, Prime Minister Narendra Modi conveyed strong concerns about protests in Canada against India to Trudeau. India has been long sensitive to Sikh protesters in Canada. In June, India criticized Canada for allowing a float in a parade depicting the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, perceived to be a glorification of violence by Sikh separatists.
Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984 by two Sikh bodyguards after she allowed the storming of the Golden Temple, Amritsar, aiming to flush out Sikh separatists who demanded an independent homeland to be known as Khalistan.
However, Trudeau at the G20 Summit said that Canada will always defend "freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and peaceful protest".
Sikh community in Canada
Canada has the highest population of Sikhs outside their home state of Punjab in India, and the country has been the site of many demonstrations that have irked India.
Canada is also home to one of the largest overseas communities of Indian origin, which number about 1.4 million out of an overall Canadian population of 40 million. About 770,000 people reported Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.
India-Canada soaring relations
Here are some recent examples of uneasy ties between the two countries:
- Sept 2023: Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng postponed a trade mission to India planned for October. Both countries said they paused trade talks after expressing earlier in 2023 that they aimed to seal an initial trade deal this year. Bilateral commercial relations between the two countries are worth $100 billion, which includes $70 billion of Canadian portfolio investment, according to Indian figures.
- Sept 2023: Modi conveyed strong concerns about protests in Canada against India to Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.
- June 2023: India's foreign minister, S. Jaishankar, hit out at Canada for allowing a float in a parade depicting the 1984 assassination of then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, perceived to be glorification of violence by Sikh separatists.
- March 2023: India summoned Canada's High Commissioner to convey concern over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who breached the security of India's diplomatic mission and consulates.
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