September 23, 2023

By Krutika Pathi and Rob Gillies | Related Press

NEW DELHI — India expelled one among Canada’s prime diplomats Tuesday, ramping up a confrontation between the 2 nations over Canadian accusations that India could have been concerned within the killing of a Sikh separatist chief in suburban Vancouver.

India, which has dismissed the accusations as absurd, stated the expulsion got here amid “rising concern on the interference of Canadian diplomats in our inner issues and their involvement in anti-India actions,” in keeping with an announcement from its Ministry of Exterior Affairs.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau appeared to attempt to calm the diplomatic conflict Tuesday, telling reporters that Canada is “not seeking to provoke or escalate.”

“We’re merely laying out the info as we perceive them and we wish to work with the federal government of India to put every part clear and to make sure there are correct processes,” he stated. “India and the federal government of India must take this matter with the utmost seriousness.”

On Monday, Trudeau stated there have been “credible allegations” of Indian involvement within the slaying of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh chief who was killed by masked gunmen in June in Surrey, outdoors Vancouver. For years, India has stated Nijjar, a Canadian citizen born in India, has hyperlinks to terrorism.

Canada has but to offer any proof of Indian involvement, but when true it might mark a significant shift for India, whose safety and intelligence branches have lengthy been vital gamers in South Asia, and are suspected in plenty of killings in Pakistan. However arranging a killing in Canada, residence to almost 2 million individuals of Indian descent, could be unprecedented.

India, although, has accused Canada for years of giving free reign to Sikh separatists, together with Nijjar.

The dueling expulsions have escalated tensions between Canada and India. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi throughout this month’s Group of 20 assembly in New Delhi, and some days later Canada canceled a commerce mission to India deliberate for the autumn.

Nijjar, a plumber, was additionally a pacesetter in what stays of a once-strong motion to create an unbiased Sikh homeland, referred to as Khalistan. A bloody decade-long Sikh insurgency shook north India within the Nineteen Eighties, till being crushed in a authorities crackdown wherein 1000’s of individuals have been killed, together with distinguished Sikh leaders.

The Khalistan motion has misplaced a lot of its political energy however nonetheless has supporters within the Indian state of Punjab, in addition to within the sizable abroad Sikh diaspora. Whereas violence is now uncommon and it has been years because the lively insurgency ended, the Indian authorities has warned repeatedly that Sikh separatists have been attempting to make a comeback.

Nijjar was needed by Indian authorities, who supplied a reward for info resulting in his arrest. Nijjar denied the allegations and was working with a bunch referred to as Sikhs For Justice to prepare an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India on the time of his killing.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a lawyer and spokesperson for Sikhs For Justice, has stated Nijjar was warned by Canadian intelligence officers about being focused for assassination by “mercenaries.”

Niijar’s son, Baraj Singh Nijjar, stated Tuesday that his household and the Sikh group have been relieved by the Canadian actions.

“From day one we form of had this concept and information that if something would occur to him, the Indian authorities could be concerned,” he stated. “It was only a matter of time for when the reality would come out. It’s lastly coming to the general public eyes that the Indian authorities is concerned on this.”

On Monday, Trudeau instructed Parliament that Canadian safety businesses have been investigating “credible allegations of a possible hyperlink between brokers of the federal government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen.”

“Any involvement of a international authorities within the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he stated.

India’s international ministry dismissed the allegation as “absurd” and accused Canada of harboring “terrorists and extremists.”

“Such unsubstantiated allegations search to shift the main focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who’ve been offered shelter in Canada and proceed to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” it stated in an announcement Tuesday.

India has lengthy demanded that Canada take motion towards the Sikh independence motion, which is banned in India. Canada has a Sikh inhabitants of greater than 770,000, about 2% of its inhabitants.

In March, Modi’s authorities summoned the Canadian excessive commissioner in New Delhi, the highest diplomat within the nation, to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada. In 2020, India’s international ministry additionally summoned the highest diplomat over Trudeau’s feedback about an agricultural protest motion related to the state of Punjab, the place many Sikhs stay.

Critics accuse Modi’s Hindu nationalist authorities of looking for to suppress dissent utilizing sedition legal guidelines and different authorized weapons. Some critics of his administration have been arrested, creating what Modi’s opponents say is a tradition of intimidation.

Trudeau stated Monday he introduced up Nijjar’s slaying with Modi final week on the G20 assembly in New Delhi. He stated he instructed Modi that any Indian authorities involvement could be unacceptable and he requested for cooperation within the investigation.

Modi, for his half, expressed “sturdy issues” over Canada’s dealing with of the Sikh independence motion at that assembly, India’s assertion stated.

Whereas in New Delhi, Trudeau skipped a dinner hosted by the Indian president, and native media studies stated he was snubbed by Modi when he received a fast “pull apart” as a substitute of a bilateral assembly.

The assertion referred to as on Canada to work with India on what New Delhi stated is a risk to the Indian diaspora, and accused the Sikh motion of “selling secessionism and inciting violence” towards Indian diplomats.

Earlier this 12 months, Sikh protesters pulled down the Indian flag at India’s excessive fee in London and smashed the constructing’s window after India arrested a well-liked Sikh preacher. Protesters additionally smashed home windows on the Indian Consulate in San Francisco and skirmished with consulate staff.

Some analysts in India questioned whether or not Canada had proof of Indian hyperlinks to the Nijjar killing, and whether or not Trudeau was attempting to drum up help amongst Canada’s Sikh group.

“Such a cost towards India by a G7 nation is unprecedented. The Canadian authorities has intentionally made a spectacle of it to please its home constituency amongst the Sikh diaspora,” stated Ok.C. Singh, a former Indian diplomat.

The British authorities stated Tuesday that there are not any plans to reinvestigate the demise of a U.Ok-based Sikh activist within the wake of Canada’s declare India might need been behind the slaying of Nijjar.

Avtar Singh Khanda, who had performed a distinguished function in protests for an unbiased Sikh homeland, died in June within the English metropolis of Birmingham after falling ailing. Supporters alleged be might need been poisoned, however Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s spokesman, Max Blain, stated police discovered nothing suspicious.

The Trudeau authorities’s allegations are awkward for the U.Ok., which is a detailed ally of Canada within the “5 Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance that additionally contains the U.S., Australia and New Zealand, and can be looking for a free commerce take care of India.

“These are severe allegations. It’s proper that the Canadian authorities ought to be trying into them,” Blain stated, including it might be inappropriate to remark additional whereas the investigation is underway.

Gillies reported from Toronto. Aamer Madhani in New York, Sheikh Saaliq in New Delhi, and Jill Lawless in London, contributed to this report.