oronto, September 19
Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat on Monday as it investigates what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations that India’s government may have had links to the assassination in Canada of a Sikh activist.
Trudeau said in Parliament that Canadian intelligence agencies had been looking into the allegations after Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, was gunned down on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia.
Trudeau told Parliament that he brought up the slaying with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-20 last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada had been expelled as a consequence.
“If proven true this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other,” Joly said. “As a consequence we have expelled a top Indian diplomat.”
The Indian Embassy in Ottawa did not immediately answer phone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.
The expulsion comes as relations between Canada and India are tense. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall.
At the G-20 meeting, Modi expressed “strong concerns” over Canada’s handling of the Punjabi independence movement among the overseas during a meeting with Trudeau at the G-20, according to a statement released by India’s Ministry of External Affairs.
The statement described the Sikh movement as “promoting secessionism and inciting violence” against Indian diplomats. It called on Canada to work with India on what New Delhi said is a threat to the Canadian Indian diaspora.
Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000, or about 2 per cent of its total population.
“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,” Trudeau said.
Trudeau said Canada has declared its deep concerns to the Indian government. “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” Trudeau said his government has been working closely and coordinating with Canada’s allies on the case.
“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.