India today expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a reciprocal move over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's charge that it played a role in the June killing of a Khalistani terrorist. The diplomat, who is unnamed, has five days to leave the country.
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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had "credible allegations" linking Hardeep Singh Nijjar's killing with the "agents of the Government of India". The Indian government rejected the allegation as "absurd and motivated".
Canada's allegation was coupled with the expelling of a senior Indian diplomat, not named but identified by their foreign minister as the head of India's Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Canada. This morning, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move over the "interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities."
Today's development flags a further rise in diplomatic tensions after Prime Minister Narendra Modi scolded his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau at the G20 summit in Delhi over secessionist activities and Khalistan supporters attacking Indian diplomatic missions in Canada. Days later, Canada postponed a trade mission to India, which was planned for October.
"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," Trudeau told an emergency session of the parliament today.
The Indian government "completely rejected" the Canadian PM's allegations and said their political figures openly expressing sympathy for "such elements" remains a matter of deep concern.
"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. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern," said a foreign ministry statement.
The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new, the statement said, and urged Canada to take prompt action against all "anti-India elements" operating from there.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who headed the Khalistani Tiger Force and the Canadian arm of Sikhs For Justice (SFJ), was shot dead by unknown attackers near a gurdwara in Surrey in June. Nijjar, who was from Punjab's Jalandhar, moved to Canada in 1997. He was wanted in India for being the "mastermind" of the Khalistani Tiger Force, a designated terror group in India.
Last July, the Indian anti-terror agency announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on Nijjar in connection with the murder of a Hindu priest in Jalandhar, Punjab. Nijjar was also accused in the 2007 bombing of a cinema in Punjab. The NIA is also probing the recent attacks on Indian diplomatic missions in Canada, UK and US.
Canada has been among the favoured hubs of expat Sikhs where extremism has mushroomed over the last few years. The past few months saw multiple Khalistani activities in Canada, including protests outside the Indian Embassy and threat posters for Indian diplomats.