Canada has accused India of being responsible for the killing of a Sikh separatist on Canadian soil. There is “credible evidence” of a “possible connection between Indian government officials and the murder of Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday (local time) in front of Parliament in Ottawa. The 45-year-old Nijjar was found shot to death in the parking lot of a temple in the Canadian province of British Columbia in June. He campaigned for the establishment of an independent Sikh state in India.
Indian diplomats expelled
The Canadian government also expelled an Indian diplomat who, according to the Foreign Ministry in Ottawa, is suspected of having a connection to the assassination attempt. The fact that a representative of a foreign government could be involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is “completely unacceptable,” said department head Melanie Joly.
Trudeau also told Parliament that there was an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” He called on the Indian government “strongly” to cooperate in clarifying the allegations. After Nijjar’s murder, relations between Ottawa and New Delhi had already deteriorated considerably. In this context, Canada had also put negotiations on a free trade agreement with India on hold.
Canadian diplomat must go
The government in New Delhi dismissed the Canadian government’s allegations as “absurd”. India is “a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law,” the Foreign Ministry said. At the same time, Canada was accused of turning a blind eye to the activities of radical Sikh nationalists. “The Canadian government’s inaction on this matter has long been a concern,” it said. Ottawa must take “immediate and effective action against all anti-India elements operating from its soil.” Meanwhile, New Delhi expelled a Canadian diplomat. He has to leave India within five days.
Nijjar belonged to the so-called Khalistan movement. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently expressed his opposition to the movement on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi without being directly named. This promotes secessionism and incites violence against Indian diplomats, Modi said, according to his office.
Canada is home to the world’s largest Sikh community outside the northern Indian state of Punjab. Punjab, home to about 58 percent Sikhs and 39 percent Hindus, was rocked by a violent independence movement in the 1980s and 1990s. Thousands of people were killed. Today, the most vocal separatists live in the Indian diaspora.
sti/pg (afp, dpa, rtr)