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India Ousts Senior Canadian Envoy After Trudeau Accuses India in the Assassination of Sikh Activist

by Michael Nguyen
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Diplomatic Tensions between India and Canada

On Tuesday, India removed a high-ranking Canadian diplomat from the country and leveled accusations of meddling in its domestic affairs against Canada. This development amplifies the existing diplomatic rift between the two nations, which was exacerbated by Canada’s claims implicating India in the murder of a Sikh political activist on Canadian soil.

The removal of the Canadian diplomat comes a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in Parliament that there were convincing claims linking the Indian government to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate for Sikh independence. Nijjar was fatally shot on June 18, outside a Sikh cultural facility in Surrey, British Columbia. In response, Canada had expelled a senior Indian diplomat. India denounced these claims as “baseless.”

Since the 1980s, India has been grappling with calls for the creation of an independent Sikh state, known as Khalistan. This separatist movement gained attention following a violent standoff in a key Sikh temple that culminated in the assassination of a then-serving prime minister and a subsequent wave of anti-Sikh violence.

At the time of his death, Nijjar was coordinating an informal referendum on Sikh independence and was a wanted person in India. Indian authorities had accused him of orchestrating an attack on a Hindu priest and had offered a financial reward for information leading to his arrest.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a legal representative and spokesperson for the Sikhs For Justice organization, stated that Canadian intelligence had forewarned Nijjar about potential threats to his life by “hired assassins” before his fatal shooting.

Trudeau informed the Canadian Parliament that the country’s security agencies are currently scrutinizing “plausible allegations of a connection between Indian government agents and the murder of a Canadian national.”

India’s Ministry of External Affairs categorically dismissed these allegations as “unfounded and politically motivated,” and accused Canada of providing refuge to “terrorists and extremists.”

In its official statement released earlier on Tuesday, the ministry went on to assert that such uncorroborated claims aim to distract attention from extremist elements of the Khalistan movement, who have found sanctuary in Canada and continue to jeopardize India’s sovereignty and territorial unity.

Canada is home to more than 770,000 Sikhs, constituting about 2% of the country’s total population. India has long urged Canada to take more stringent action against the Khalistan movement, which has gained traction not just in Canada but also in other countries like the United Kingdom that have significant Sikh diaspora.

The strained relationship between India and Canada has also disrupted trade negotiations and led to the cancellation of a planned Canadian trade mission to India. The tensions were apparent during last week’s G20 meeting in New Delhi, where both Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concerns about the handling of the Sikh independence movement.

As for internal criticism, Modi’s government has been accused of using legal measures, including sedition laws, to quash dissent and intimidate activists, scholars, and journalists. These measures have created what critics describe as a culture of coercion.

A number of analysts in India have questioned Canada’s veracity in implicating India in the murder, suspecting that Trudeau may be attempting to galvanize support among the Canadian Sikh community. “There is a lack of concrete evidence to substantiate Trudeau’s claim, which has unnecessarily escalated tensions,” said K.C. Singh, a former diplomat and expert in strategic affairs.

In recent comments, Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly disclosed that the expelled Indian diplomat served as the chief of Indian intelligence in Canada. Joly also revealed that the matter had been raised with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Both countries have expressed their concern and are in regular communication with Canada.

The situation remains fraught with diplomatic complexities and both nations seem to be at a crossroads, where the consequences of these tensions could have long-lasting impacts on bilateral relations.

Contributors to this report include journalists Aamer Madhani in New York, and Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi. Reported from Toronto by Gillies.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Diplomatic Tensions between India and Canada

What sparked the recent diplomatic tensions between India and Canada?

The diplomatic tensions between India and Canada were triggered by Canada’s allegations that India was involved in the assassination of a Sikh activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Canada. India responded by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat and denouncing the allegations as baseless.

What was Hardeep Singh Nijjar advocating for before his death?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was an advocate for Sikh independence and was coordinating an informal referendum on the subject at the time of his death. He was also a wanted individual in India, accused of orchestrating an attack on a Hindu priest.

What actions did India’s Ministry of External Affairs take in response to Canada’s allegations?

India’s Ministry of External Affairs dismissed Canada’s allegations as “unfounded and politically motivated,” accusing Canada of harboring “terrorists and extremists” and of interfering in India’s internal affairs.

Have other countries been involved or made statements regarding the tensions?

Yes, the matter has been raised with U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Both countries have expressed their concern and are in regular communication with Canada.

How have these tensions affected trade relations between India and Canada?

The diplomatic rift has disrupted ongoing trade negotiations and led to the cancellation of a planned Canadian trade mission to India. The tensions were particularly palpable during the recent G20 meeting in New Delhi.

What criticism has the Modi government faced internally?

The Modi government has been accused of using legal measures, including sedition laws, to quash dissent and intimidate activists, scholars, and journalists. Critics say that these measures have created a culture of coercion.

How has the Canadian Sikh community been involved or impacted?

The Canadian Sikh community, which numbers more than 770,000, is closely watching the developments. The issue also has political implications in Canada, as Prime Minister Trudeau has been suspected of trying to galvanize support among the Sikh diaspora.

What are the potential long-term consequences of these diplomatic tensions?

The situation is fraught with diplomatic complexities and both nations seem to be at a crossroads. The consequences of these tensions could have long-lasting impacts on bilateral relations between India and Canada.

More about Diplomatic Tensions between India and Canada

  • India-Canada Diplomatic Relations
  • Profile of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
  • India’s Khalistan Movement
  • Canada’s Sikh Population
  • G20 Summit 2023 Highlights
  • India’s Sedition Laws and Their Application
  • Canada’s Foreign Policy on Sikh Independence Movement
  • Trade Relations Between India and Canada
  • Trudeau’s Stance on Human Rights in India
  • Role of U.S. and U.K. in India-Canada Relations

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