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Delhi, Sep 21: A diplomatic rift has emerged between India and Canada, triggered by Canada’s allegations that India played a role in the killing of a Sikh separatist in Vancouver. The dispute has escalated to mutual diplomatic expulsions and a strong denial from India, which has termed any such involvement as “absurd”.
India has issued a travel advisory warning its citizens against visiting specific areas of Canada due to concerns over “politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”. Although the advisory does not explicitly mention the ongoing controversy, it does cite threats against Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community opposing the “anti-India agenda”. Indian citizens are advised to stay away from areas where such incidents have occurred, although specific cities or places have not been named.
Canada’s Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc rejected India’s warning and stressed that Canada remains a safe country. The victim at the center of the controversy, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was shot by two masked assailants outside a Sikh temple in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey. According to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, Nijjar, a lawyer from Khalistan, an independent Sikh state in northern India, faced charges from Indian authorities of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder, which he strongly denied.
— Arindam Bagchi (@MEAIndia) September 20, 2023
India has accused Canada of ignoring the activities of radical Sikh nationalists supporting the creation of Khalistan.
Tensions between the two countries increased after Nijjar’s murder and the subsequent protests in Canada. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who met Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit, urged India to take the matter seriously without any provocation.
The United States has joined Canada in calling on India to disclose information about the killing, stressing the importance of a thorough investigation. Representatives of the Sikh community in Canada allege that India has targeted Sikhs in Canada for spying, disinformation and even assassination for decades.
Balraj Singh Nijjar, the victim’s son, is hopeful that the persons responsible for the murder will be identified. Jagmeet Singh, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada and an ally of Trudeau, called for India’s involvement in the investigation into alleged foreign interference in Canadian affairs, citing India’s long-standing suspicions of interference in Canada’s democratic rights.
The diplomatic dispute has already led to the suspension of free trade agreement negotiations between Canada and India, as well as the cancellation of the trade minister’s planned visit to India. It could also complicate US efforts to strengthen ties with India, as both countries work together to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region.