India on Tuesday reacted sharply to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations of New Delhi playing a role in the killing of wanted Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the explusion of an Indian diplomat in the process.
In a statement by the Ministry of External Affairs, India denounced "absurd and motivated" allegations of involvement in any act of violence in Canada. "Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected. We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law," read the statement.
The sharply-worded statement also mentioned that the unsubstantiated allegations are aimed towards taking the focus from Khalistani terrorists"who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity". India also expressed concern on the Canadian government's inaction on the matter.
"That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new," said the External Affairs Ministry.
India reiterated its request to the Canadian government to take effective action against elements operating in their country against India.
What happened in Canada?
As India-Canada relations sour, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau alleged that the Indian government played a role in the killing of wanted Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. "Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India," Trudeau said in the House of Commons.
"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," he added.
Soon after his statement, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced that Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of India's intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in Canada has been expelled as a consequence.
The recent remarks made by Trudeau and the expulsion of the Indian diplomat mark the latest development in souring relations between India and Canada. Last week, Canada cancelled a trade mission to India scheduled for October and trade talks between the two countries have been paused.
On the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed strong concerns to Trudeau over Canada's handling of pro-Khalistani activities. Trudeau later said that Canada will defend freedom of expression in the country and that “the actions of the few do not represent the entire community or Canada”, in regard to the Khalistani community.
Who is Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
Canada-based pro-Khalistan terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was declared a 'wanted terrorist' by the Indian government, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen at the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in the Punjabi-dominated Surrey city of British Columbia province.
Nijjar was associated with the separatist organisation, Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which is banned in India. He had played a key role in organising the Khalistan referendum in Brampton City. The Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) declared him as an 'individual terrorist' in July 2020.
After his death, a pro-Khalistani poster in Canada sparked outrage in India by calling India's High Commissioner to Ottawa Sanjay Kumar Verma and Consul General in Toronto Apoorva Srivastava as "killers" of the SFJ leader. India has vehemently denied the claims and asked the Canadian authorities to take appropriate measures in view of planned protests by pro-Khalistan groups outside Indian missions in Canada.