India, Canada expel diplomats over accusations Delhi assassinated Sikh

NEW DELHI — India expelled a Canadian diplomat on Tuesday in a tit-for-tat move after Canadian officials accused Indian government operatives of gunning down a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia and threw out an Indian diplomat they identified as an intelligence officer.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of assassination, made during an explosive speech before Parliament on Monday, sent relations between the two nations tumbling toward their lowest point but also held broader ramifications for ties between the U.S.-led alliance and India, which the Biden administration has assiduously courted as a strategic counterweight to China.

India on Sept. 19 expelled a Canadian diplomat after officials accused Indian government operatives of gunning down a Sikh leader in British Columbia. (Video: Reuters)

The expelled Canadian diplomat was not named in an Indian government statement but was described by the Hindustan Times as the Canadian intelligence station chief in New Delhi.

Trudeau says ‘credible allegations’ tie India to killing in Canada

The Indian government issued a statement Tuesday rejecting Trudeau’s accusation as “absurd and motivated.” India’s Foreign Ministry went on to say that the 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.”

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was designated a terrorist by Indian security agencies in 2020 and accused of planning attacks inside India’s Punjab state, which is home to about 16 million Sikhs.

The Khalistan movement he was part of seeks to form a breakaway state in the Punjab region called Khalistan and has supporters within India and among the large global Sikh diaspora. Thousands died during a separatist insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and ’90s.

Months before Nijjar was shot by masked gunmen in the parking lot of a Sikh temple outside Vancouver on June 18, India ratcheted up a campaign to pressure countries including Canada, Australia, Britain and the United States, home to significant Sikh communities and frequent pro-Khalistan protests, to crack down on the movement.

Earlier this year in London and San Francisco, protesters stormed the grounds of Indian diplomatic missions to raise their movement’s flag, angering the New Delhi government. Indian officials say pro-Khalistan supporters have also targeted Indian diplomats posted overseas.

India sees signs of renewed Sikh separatism and sounds the alarm

On Monday, Trudeau did not give specific evidence linking Indian operatives to the shooting but said Canada was looking into the killing with allied nations. The controversy comes at an awkward moment when Western nations, led by the White House, are looking to woo India as a geopolitical and trade partner and have refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi over India’s authoritarian backsliding.

On Sept. 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said India was potentially linked to…

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