An unprecedented major row in Canada-India relations has broken out into the open on Monday, after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in a televised speech to the House of Commons accused Indian intelligence of carrying out an extrajudicial killing on Canadian soil.
Trudeau cited “credible” intelligence pointing to “agents of the government of India” as being behind the June murder of a prominent Sikh leader named Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia.
“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 announced in the speech to lawmakers.
“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,” he continued.
The stunning and unprecedented moment of such a severe accusation as this leveled among large nation-states is likely to send already tension-filled India-Canadian ties falling off a cliff. Trudeau had also revealed to parliament that he had raised the alleged assassination of the Canadian Sikh leader with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-20 summit last week.
Canada on Monday promptly expelled a top Indian diplomat, described as the head of Indian intelligence in Canada, amid an ongoing investigation. India is being asked to fully cooperate with the Canadian investigation.
45-year old Nijjar had been shot dead in parking lot of a Sikh temple in Surrey after an evening service on June 18. Nijjar was a prominent figure of international stature in the Khalistan independence movement, which supports the establishment of separate state for Sikhs in India. Due to its separationist political activities, groups associated with the movement have been dubbed “terrorist organizations”.
Nijjar himself was a wanted man in India, described as among the country’s top wanted foreign “terrorists”.
Here’s how Indian media has covered his killing, saying that a ‘terror leader’ had been shot, and accusing him of leading “training camps” in Canada for militants to carry out operations inside India…
Thousands of Canadian Sikh’s attended his funeral, and the killing has sparked outrage in Metro Vancouver’s large Sikh community.
The Canadian government has meanwhile rejected the ‘terrorism’ narrative and has emphasized Nijjar’s Canadian citizenship.
Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly in the wake of Trudeau’s Monday speech confirmed that the head of Indian intelligence in Canada, based out of the Indian embassy, 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,” she said of the Nijjar murder.