Indian envoy expelled as PM Trudeau links Delhi to Sikh leader’s death

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OTTAWA: Canadian sec­urity agencies have been actively pursuing “cre­dible allegations” of a potential link between Indian government agents and the murder of a Sikh leader in British Columbia in June, PM Justin Trudeau said on Monday.

In another move, the Canadian foreign minister said the government had expelled a diplomat who was “the chief of India’s intelligence agency” in the country.

“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government,” Trudeau said in an emergency statement to the House of Commons.

Trudeau said he had raised his concerns about the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar “personally and directly” with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at a Group of 20 summit last week in India.

Nijjar, whom India had declared a wanted terrorist, was gunned down on June 18 in a suburb of Vancouver that is home to one of the largest Sikh populations in Canada.

He advocated for the creation of an independent Sikh state. India accused Nijjar of carrying out terrorist attacks in India, a charge he denied.

Tensions between India and Canada have been simmering over the unsolved slaying, and Indian unhappiness over how Ottawa has handled right-wing Sikh separatists.

“Allegations that a representative of a foreign government may have been involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen here in Canada, on Canadian soil… are totally unacceptable,” Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said.

“Therefore, today we have expelled a senior Indian diplomat from Canada,” she added without naming the diplomat.

Speaking in the House of Commons, PM Trudeau said: “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.

“Canada is a rule-of-law country. The protection of our citizens and defence of our sovereignty are fundamental. Our top priorities have therefore been (i) that our law enforcement and security agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians, and (ii) that all steps be taken to hold the perpetrators of this murder to account.”

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he said, adding that his government had been working closely and coordinating with allies on this “very serious matter”.

“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.

He said that many Canadians, particularly members of the Indo-Canadian community, would be feeling angry and perhaps frightened, but called on citizens to “remain calm” and steadfast in their commitment to democratic principles.

Published in Dawn, September 19th, 2023