India rejects Trudeau’s allegations on Nijjar’s killing; senior Canadian diplomat expelled

In a tit for tat move, India also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after Canada expelled a diplomat from the Indian High Commission in Ottawa

September 19, 2023 09:06 am | Updated 11:44 pm IST - NEW DELHI: 

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the G20 Summit, in New Delhi.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during the G20 Summit, in New Delhi. | Photo Credit: Reuters

India on September 19 rejected the Canadian allegation of involvement by the Government of India in the killing of a prominent Khalistani separatist leader “on Canadian soil”. In a tough statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said such allegations as made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau diverted attention from the activities of Khalistan operatives living in Canada, and called for effective action against them. In a tit for tat move, India also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat after Canada expelled a diplomat from the Indian High Commission in Ottawa.

“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,” the MEA’s statement declared. The statement further acknowledged that the matter had been discussed earlier by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Mr. Trudeau.

“Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected,” the release stated. The official remark expressed concern over the use of Canadian soil by “anti-India elements” and urged Ottawa to “take prompt and effective legal action” targeting them.

Earlier, in an unprecedented turn of events, Mr. Trudeau accused India of being behind the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent figure of the Khalistan movement who was based in British Columbia, terming the June incident an “unacceptable violation”.

In a statement to the House of Commons, Mr. Trudeau also said that Canadian security agencies had investigated the June killing over the past several weeks, and that he had taken up the matter with Mr. Modi during his visit to Delhi last week for the G-20 summit. “Last week, at the G-20, I brought them personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in no uncertain terms,” he said in his statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.

At the G-20 summit, Mr. Trudeau also had a one-on-one meeting with Mr. Modi.

Canada has also expelled the station head of the Research & Analysis Wing (R&AW), India’s external intelligence agency, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly has informed the Canadian Parliament.

“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,” Mr. Trudeau in a remark to the House of Commons in Ottawa.

The Star, a Canadian media outlet, has described the expelled R&AW official as Pavan Kumar Rai.

In a tit for tat move, the MEA summoned High Commissioner Cameron MacKay to South Block, its headquarters, on Tuesday morning, and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat stationed in Delhi. “The High Commissioner of Canada to India was summoned today and informed about the decision of the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India,” a statement by the MEA said.

India-Canada relations have been on a downward trajectory over the past several months, and took a further hit when both sides shelved trade talks earlier this month after six rounds of negotiation, citing “political issues”.

The India-Canada spat has drawn comments globally, including from Pakistan, the U.S., and Australia, where a spokesperson for Foreign Minister Penny Wong has said Canberra is “deeply concerned” by the allegations that Canada has labelled against India. “Australia believes all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law. We are closely engaged with partners on developments. We have conveyed our concerns at senior levels to India,” the spokesperson said.

The U.K. has also said that they are in “close touch” with Ottawa about the “serious allegations”.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier today,” U.S. National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said on Monday night.

In Pakistan, former Foreign Minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari accused India of violating “international law and sovereignty of a NATO member country”.

Backing the Narendra Modi government on the Canada issue, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh, in a post on X (formerly Twitter), said, “The Indian National Congress has always believed that our country’s fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising, especially when terrorism threatens India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity.” “Our country’s interests and concerns must be kept paramount at all times,” he added.

Security increased

Amidst heightened tensions between Canada and India, Delhi Police has increased security around the High Commission of Canada. According to an officer, teams of the Delhi Police, along with paramilitary forces, have been deployed around the Canadian High Commission as a precautionary measure.

The High Commission of Canada is located in southwest Delhi’s Chanakyapuri area.

Teams of Central Reserve Police and Delhi police have been deployed in large numbers to keep a check on vehicles entering around the area and the building, an officer said.

Nijjar, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force, was killed in June. Mr. Truseau alleged the involvement of “agents of the Indian government”, while the Indian government rejected all charges and said they were “motivated” and “absurd”.

(With inputs from Sandeep Phukan and Samridhi Tewari)

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