Amid the G20 meet, Canadian and Indian bilateral ties have descended into a major predicament due to allegations made by the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau regarding the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian Sikh leader in the Indian-separatist Khalistan movement, on 18 June 2023.
Who is Hardeep Singh Nijjar?
On September 18, He stated that, according to intelligence gathered by the Canadian government, the Indian government had been directly involved in the murder of the Sikh activist, who was wanted by Indian authorities and was designated a terrorist under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act. However, The Indian government has issued a statement dismissing the accusations as ‘absurd’ and politically motivated.
Nijjar was shot and killed by two masked men outside a Sikh cultural center, in Surrey, British Columbia. He had campaigned for an independent Sikh nation – known as Khalistan – to be carved out of India’s Punjab state and is accused of multiple killings in India.
Canada and India’s tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.
Following these allegations, the Canadian government has removed a key Indian diplomat, Pavan Kumar Rai, a senior member of the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency in Canada. To this, the Indian government retaliated by ordering a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within five days after summoning the high commissioner, Cameron Mackay.
Canada’s role in the Sikh separatist movement.
Outside of Punjab, India, Canada hosts the highest population of Sikhs and has played a crucial role in several protests regarding the separatist movement demanding an independent homeland to be known as Khalistan. The Indian government has urged the Canadian government to take action regarding the activities of Sikh hardliners among the Indian diaspora who, it says, are trying to revive the insurgency.
In June, India’s foreign minister criticized the Canadian administration for allowing a float in a parade depicting the 1984 assassination of then-Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards, perceived to be a glorification of violence by Sikh separatists. The Canadian PM replied by saying that Canada will always defend “freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and peaceful protest,” at a press conference in New Delhi.