Allegation of Canadian Sikh killing stem from surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, official says

Earlier on Thursday, India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff as the rift widened between the once-close allies over Ottawa’s allegation that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh separatist, in a Vancouver suburb in June.

India-Canada ties going ‘south rapidly’ amid row over killing of Sikh separatist

Ties between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination.

Nijjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, had been wanted by India for years before he was gunned down outside the temple he led in the city of Surrey.

Speaking on Thursday on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation he faces.

“The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons was not done lightly,” he said. “There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with.”

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau says the decision to reveal the allegations of India’s involvement in the killing of Canadian Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar was “not done lightly”. Photo: AP
“We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”
The bombshell allegation set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations “absurd”.

Canada has yet to provide public evidence to back Trudeau’s allegations, and Canada’s UN ambassador, Bob Rae, indicated that might not come soon.

“This is very early days,” Rae told reporters on Thursday, insisting that while facts will emerge, they must “come out in the course of the pursuit of justice”.

“That’s what we call the rule of law in Canada,” he said.

US President Joe Biden and other leaders had also expressed concern to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi about Canadian claims that New Delhi was involved in the murder of Nijjar when they met at the G20 this month, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

Several members of the Five Eyes raised the killing with Modi, the FT report said, citing three people familiar with the discussions at the G20 summit.


Canadian PM says authorities investigating ‘credible’ links to India on Sikh leader’s murder

Canadian PM says authorities investigating ‘credible’ links to India on Sikh leader’s murder

On Thursday, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced that visa services had been suspended until further notice.

The suspension means Canadians who do not already have visas cannot travel to India. Canadians are among the top travellers to India: In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.

Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues.

“Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications,” Bagchi told reporters. He gave no details on the alleged threats.

On Wednesday, India warned its citizens to be careful when travelling to Canada because of “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes.”

India’s security and intelligence branches have long been active in South Asia and are suspected of a number of killings in Pakistan. But arranging the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada, home to nearly 2 million people of Indian descent, would be unprecedented.

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India has criticised Canada for years over giving free rein to Sikh separatists, including Nijjar. New Delhi had accused him of links to terrorism, which he denied.

Nijjar was a local leader in what remains of a once-strong movement to create an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan. A bloody Sikh insurgency shook north India in the 1970s and 1980s until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders.

While the active insurgency ended decades ago, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatists are trying to stage a comeback and pressed countries like Canada, where Sikhs comprise over 2 per cent of the population, to do more to stop them.

At the time of his killing, Nijjar was working to organise an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India.

New Delhi’s anxieties about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long been a strain on the relationship, but the two have maintained strong defence and trade ties and share strategic interests over China’s global ambitions.

Additional reporting by Reuters

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