In a rapidly unfolding diplomatic dispute, Canada and India are embroiled in a contentious back-and-forth over the assassination of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen. The situation has led to the expulsion of senior diplomats from both countries, and it threatens to further strain their already delicate relations.
The Sikh Activist's Background & The Tragic Assassination
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was an outspoken advocate for the creation of a separate Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, a movement that is considered illegal in India and a threat to national security. Nijjar's name was even on India's list of UAPA terrorists, associated with efforts to radicalize the Sikh community worldwide in favour of Khalistan.
In June, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was a prominent Sikh leader in western Canada, was tragically killed. He was gunned down by two masked gunmen while sitting in his truck outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia. The incident deeply shocked and outraged the Sikh community in Canada, which is one of the largest Sikh communities outside of India, comprising over 770,000 members.
Following the assassination, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised eyebrows when he publicly announced that Canadian security agencies were actively investigating "credible allegations" linking India to Nijjar's assassination. Trudeau's statement indicated that his government was committed to holding the perpetrators accountable.
The situation escalated when Canada expelled an Indian diplomat, described as the head of the Indian intelligence agency in Canada, in response to the allegations. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly stated that Canada was determined to get to the bottom of the matter. India responded in kind by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat based in India, citing concerns about Canadian diplomats interfering in India's internal matters and involvement in what they termed "anti-India activities."
India's Rejection of Allegations
India vehemently denied the allegations made by Canada, dismissing them as "absurd and motivated." The Indian government emphasized its commitment to the rule of law and accused Canada of providing shelter to Khalistani terrorists and extremists.
Following this back and forth between the two countries, the White House has expressed deep concern about the allegations and called for a thorough Canadian investigation and the prosecution of those responsible. Australia also voiced its concerns about the situation, particularly regarding its impact on the Indian diaspora in Australia.
While no arrests have been made in relation to the assassination so far, the Canadian police, in their statement made it clear that they are looking into three suspects in relation to these matters.
The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the subsequent diplomatic tensions between Canada and India highlight the deep-rooted historical and political complexities surrounding the Sikh diaspora and the Khalistan movement. The situation remains fluid, and the international community is closely monitoring developments in the ongoing dispute.