Canada has accused the Indian government of complicity in the murder of a Canadian Sikh leader near Vancouver last June and responded by expelling India's intelligence chief based in Ottawa, fuelling the diplomatic tensions between the two nations.
The move exacerbated already strained relations between the two nations.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addressed an emergency session of the parliamentary opposition, revealing "credible allegations" that linked Indian agents to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an exiled Sikh leader, in British Columbia.
Trudeau deemed any foreign government's involvement in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil as an unacceptable violation of sovereignty. He urged India to cooperate in resolving the matter.
Canada swiftly acted by expelling a senior Indian diplomat, identified as the head of India's foreign intelligence agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), in Canada.
The victim, Nijjar, labelled a wanted terrorist by India, was fatally shot on June 18 in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver with a significant Sikh population, the largest outside of Punjab, India.
Nijjar had advocated for an independent Sikh state, drawing accusations of terrorism from India, allegations he denied. Tensions have simmered between the nations over the unsolved murder and India's dissatisfaction with Canada's handling of Sikh separatist activities. India accused Canada of overlooking Sikh nationalists striving for a separate Sikh homeland in northern India.
The recent accusation by Canada drew comparisons to international political assassinations, prompting concerns about deteriorating diplomatic relations. While India did not immediately respond, tensions had already flared during the G20 summit in New Delhi, where Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed strong concerns about perceived anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.
India has frequently voiced concerns about the Sikh diaspora's activities abroad, particularly in Canada, fearing a rekindling of the Sikh separatist movement that shook the state of Punjab in the 1980s and early 1990s, resulting in significant casualties.
In response to the strained relations, Canada suspended free trade agreement negotiations with India, underscoring Trudeau's commitment to defending freedoms of expression, conscience, and peaceful protest while firmly addressing hatred.
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