India could be behind killing of Canadian Sikh Hardeep Nijjar, says Trudeau

Bloomberg |
Sep 19, 2023 02:05 AM IST

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia who supported the idea of a separate Khalistani state.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there are “credible allegations of a potential link” between agents of the Indian government and the killing of a prominent Sikh leader.

Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau(REUTERS)
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau(REUTERS)

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was slain in June outside a temple in British Columbia, raising tensions between Sikh separatists and the Indian government.

“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government,” Trudeau said Monday in the Ottawa legislature. The prime minister added that he raised those concerns “personally and directly” with his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi, on the sidelines of the Group of 20 meeting last week in New Delhi.

“In no uncertain terms, any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said.

READ | Canada expels Indian diplomat over slaying of Sikh leader

Melanie Joly, Canada’s foreign minister, said she has expelled the head of India’s intelligence agency in Canada from the country.

The Indian High Commission in Ottawa — the equivalent of an embassy — didn’t immediately respond to phone and email requests for comment.

Trudeau’s speech highlights a souring relationship between the two nations. Last week, Canada postponed a trade mission to India, which had been planned for early October, after the prime minister’s contentious meeting with Modi in the Indian capital.

READ | Hardeep Nijjar, designated terrorist and Khalistan supporter, shot dead in Canada

India has characterized a June protest outside its High Commission as an “attack” and its anti-terror agency is investigating. Modi’s office also publicly criticized Trudeau for allegedly tolerating “anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.”

There have been longstanding allegations from Indian officials that Canada has been too comfortable with Sikh separatists who want an independent Punjab carved out of northwestern India.

John Kirton, director of the G20 Research Group at the University of Toronto, said the frostiness was palpable between the Canadian and Indian delegations at the summit in New Delhi. The relationship between the two countries “is now at a very downward trough,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a very serious issue, but at this point it’s still in the realm of allegations.”

The World Sikh Organization said in a statement: “Canada must immediately identify and bring to justice those individuals who were involved in the targeted killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”

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