Tension Rises Between Canada, India Over Sikh Leader's Killing

India expels senior Canadian diplomat in tit-for-tat
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 19, 2023 1:26 AM CDT
Tension Rises Between Canada, India Over Sikh Leader's Slaying
Khalistan flags are seen outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, British Columbia, on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023, where temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down in his vehicle while leaving the temple parking lot in June.   (Darryl Dyck/The Canadian Press via AP)

India dismissed allegations that its government was linked to the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada as "absurd" Tuesday, and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat, the AP reports. It came a day after Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat as it investigates what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations its government may have had links to the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia. Nijjar was organizing an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh nation at the time of this death. Indian authorities announced a cash reward last year for information leading to Nijjar's arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

In a statement, India's Ministry of External Affairs wrote that "the decision reflects Government of India's growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities." The dueling expulsions come as relations between Canada and India are tense. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just canceled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall. Protests by pro-Sikh independence groups in Canada have angered the Modi government. The Sikh independence, or Khalistan, movement is banned in India, where officials see it and affiliated groups as a national security threat. But the movement still has some support in northern India, as well as countries like Canada and the United Kingdom which are home to a sizable Sikh diaspora.

On Tuesday, India's foreign ministry released a statement dismissing Canada's allegation as "absurd and motivated." The ministry's added that Trudeau had made similar allegations to Modi. "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 statement noted, referring to the proposed name of a Sikh homeland. Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said a top diplomat, who she said was the head of Indian intelligence in Canada, has been expelled as a consequence. (More, including the US response, here.)

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