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Canada expels Indian diplomat while investigating murder of Sikh. India denies alleged link

Canada expels Indian diplomat while investigating murder of Sikh.  India denies alleged link

By KRUTIKA PATHI and ROB GILLIES (Associated Press)

NEW DELHI (AP) — Canada has expelled a top Indian diplomat as it investigates what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called credible allegations that his government may have had links to the killing in Canada of a Sikh activist, an allegation that India rejected as “absurd.”

Trudeau said in Parliament on Monday that Canadian intelligence agencies have been investigating allegations after Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a strong supporter of an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan, was shot dead on June 18 in front of a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, UK. Columbia.

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Trudeau told Parliament that he mentioned the assassination with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Group of 20 summit last week in New Delhi. He said he told Modi that any involvement by the Indian government would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.

Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled as a result.

“If this is proven to be true, it would be a huge violation of our sovereignty and the most basic rule of how countries relate to each other,” Joly said. “As a result, we have expelled a senior Indian diplomat.”

India’s foreign ministry dismissed the allegation of government involvement as “absurd and motivated.” The ministry’s statement on Tuesday added that Trudeau made similar accusations to Modi at the G20 summit.

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“These baseless allegations seek to divert attention from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided refuge in Canada and continue to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India,” the statement said, referring to a separatist movement that India considers it a security threat.

The expulsion comes at a time when relations between Canada and India are strained. Trade talks were derailed and Canada just canceled a trade mission to India that was scheduled for the fall.

During a meeting with Trudeau at the G20 summit, Modi expressed “great concern” about Canada’s handling of the Punjabi independence movement among Sikhs abroad, according to India’s foreign ministry.

The statement described the Sikh movement as “promoting secessionism and inciting violence” against Indian diplomats. He called on Canada to work with India on what New Delhi said is a threat to the Canadian Indian diaspora.

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Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000, or about 2% of its total population.

“Over the past few weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between Indian government agents and the murder of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said.

Trudeau said Canada has expressed its deep concern to the Indian government. “Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”

Trudeau said his government has been working closely and coordinating with Canada’s allies on the case.

“In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” he said.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Canada’s national security adviser and the head of Canada’s spy service traveled to India to meet with their counterparts and confront the allegations with Indian intelligence agencies.

He called it an active homicide investigation led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Joly said Trudeau also raised the issue with U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

“We are deeply concerned by the allegations referred to by Prime Minister Trudeau,” said White House National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. “It is critical that Canada’s investigation moves forward and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who is Sikh, called it outrageous and shocking. Singh said he grew up hearing stories that challenging India’s human rights record could prevent him from getting a visa to travel there.

“But to hear the Prime Minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something I could never have imagined,” Singh said.

The Khalistan movement is banned in India, where officials view it and its affiliated groups as a threat to national security. But the movement still has some support in northern India, as well as further afield in countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, which are home to a sizeable Sikh diaspora.

Nijjar was organizing an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh state at the time of his death. Indian authorities last year announced a cash reward for information leading to Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

British Columbia Premier David Eby said he received a report from Canada’s spy agency about Nijjar’s “murder” and is “deeply disturbed” by what he was told.

He said he is calling on the Canadian government to share all information related to ongoing foreign interference and “threats from transnational organized crime.”

The World Sikh Organization of Canada called Nijjar an outspoken supporter of Khalistan who “often led peaceful protests against the violation of human rights actively taking place in India and in support of Khalistan.”

“Nijjar had spoken publicly about the threat to his life for months and said he was a target of Indian intelligence agencies,” the statement said.

Nijjar’s New York-based lawyer, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, has said Canadian intelligence officials warned Nijjar that he would be targeted for assassination by “mercenaries” before he was shot dead.

Janice Stein, a political scientist and international relations expert at the University of Toronto, said killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is astonishing.

“It’s tragic for Canada because we have foreign interference issues with Asia’s two largest economies, China and India. And we have two very large diasporas from both countries. “This is not what we want,” Stein said.

Indian authorities have cracked down on Sikh separatism over the years, after an armed insurgency in the 1980s by an independent Sikh state called Khalistan took off in the state of Punjab. A subsequent military operation killed thousands of people, according to official estimates.


Gilles reported from Toronto. Associated Press writer Aamer Madhani contributed to this report from New York.



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