India struck back at Canada early Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked agents of India’s government to the shooting death of a Sikh leader near Vancouver.
A statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs says an unnamed senior Canadian diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days.
“The decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters,” said the statement.
Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said earlier on Monday that Canada was expelling India’s Pavan Kumar Rai, whom her department lists in its public registry as a diplomatic agent who heads up an Indian intelligence agency based in Ottawa.
Trudeau told the House of Commons on Monday that there is credibility to the allegations that Indian government agents played a role in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
“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,” he said.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”
Nijjar was killed in the parking lot of his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C. on June 18.
While Sikh community leaders in Canada have insisted the government of India was involved, police previously said they had not made any link to foreign interference.
The Indian government rejected allegations of involvement in Nijjar’s death, calling them “absurd and motivated.”
“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.
India had issued an arrest warrant against Nijjar for his advocacy for a separate Sikh state in India’s Punjab region, which activists call Khalistan. India has long maintained that these activists undermine national security, though Canada insists its citizens have freedom of speech if they don’t incite violence.
Police in B.C. said in a statement late Monday that they were aware of Trudeau’s comments but were not in a position to discuss specifics about their investigation.
Banner image: THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 19, 2023.