Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat Monday as it investigates what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations that India’s government may have had links to the assassination in Canada of a Sikh separatist.
Trudeau said in Parliament that Canadian intelligence agencies have been looking into the allegations after Hardeep Singh Nijjar was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh cultural centre in Surrey, British Columbia.
Trudeau told Parliament that he brought up the slaying with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation, according to AP.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled as a consequence.
“If proven true this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other,” Joly said. “As a consequence we have expelled a top Indian diplomat.”
New Delhi on Tuesday rejected the accusations as “absurd”, AFP reported.
“Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” New Delhi’s foreign ministry said in a statement, adding: “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law.”
The expulsion comes as relations between Canada and India are tense. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall.
At the G20 meeting, Modi expressed “strong concerns” over Canada’s handling of the Punjabi independence movement among the overseas Sikhs during a meeting with Trudeau at the G20, according to a statement released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs
The statement described the movement as “promoting secessionism and inciting violence” against Indian diplomats. It called on Canada to work with India on what New Delhi said is a threat to the Canadian Indian diaspora.
Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000, or about 2% of its total population.
“Over the past number of weeks Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said Canada has declared its deep concerns to the Indian government. “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 his government has been working closely and coordinating with Canada’s allies on the case.
“In the strongest possible terms I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.
Trudeau said he knows there are some members of the Indo-Canadian community who feel angry or frightened, and he called for calm.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Canada’s national security adviser and the head of Canada’s spy service have travelled to India to meet their counterparts and to confront the Indian intelligence agencies with the allegations.
He called it an active homicide investigation led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Joly said Trudeau also raised the matter with US President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”
Joly also said she would raise the issue with her peers in the G7 on Monday evening in New York City ahead of the United Nations General Assembly.
(With reports from AP, AFP)
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