New Delhi: In a move perceived as a tit-for-tat response, India has expelled a senior Canadian diplomat, who remains unnamed, with a five-day departure deadline. This action follows Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's recent accusation that India played a role in the June killing of a Khalistani terrorist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Trudeau asserted that his government had "credible allegations" linking Nijjar's killing to individuals associated with the Indian government. This allegation marked a significant escalation in tensions between the two nations. Speaking during an emergency parliamentary session, Trudeau emphasised that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil was unacceptable and a violation of their sovereignty, contrary to the principles of free, open, and democratic societies.
India promptly summoned Canadian High Commissioner Cameron MacKay in response to Trudeau's allegations. India strongly refuted these claims and expressed deep concern about Canadian political figures openly sympathising with such elements. The Indian government contended that these unsubstantiated allegations divert attention from the presence of Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have found shelter in Canada, posing an ongoing threat to India's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Indian government pointed out that Canada has a history of providing space for various illegal activities, including murders, human trafficking, and organised crime. It urged Canada to take swift action against all "anti-India elements" operating from within its borders.
Canada, in its response, did not disclose the identity of the Indian diplomat it expelled. However, Foreign Minister Melanie Jolie revealed that the individual served as the head of India's intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in Canada.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the central figure in this dispute, led the Khalistani Tiger Force and the Canadian branch of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ). He was fatally shot near a gurdwara in Surrey in June. Nijjar, originally from Punjab's Jalandhar, had relocated to Canada in 1997 and was wanted in India for allegedly masterminding the activities of the Khalistani Tiger Force, a designated terror group.
India had announced a cash reward for Nijjar's arrest in connection with the murder of a Hindu priest in Jalandhar and his alleged involvement in the 2007 cinema bombing in Punjab. The National Investigation Agency (NIA) was also probing recent attacks on Indian diplomatic missions in Canada, the UK, and the US.
Canada has become a significant hub for expatriate Sikhs, where extremism has gained traction in recent years. The past few months have witnessed various Khalistani activities in Canada, including protests outside the Indian Embassy and the display of threatening posters targeting Indian diplomats.
The mounting diplomatic tensions led Canada to postpone a scheduled trade mission to India, originally planned for October. This decision came shortly after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed concerns at the G20 summit in Delhi regarding the rise of secessionist activities and attacks on Indian diplomatic missions by Khalistan supporters in Canada.