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 killings in Canada
The Indian government issued a statement Tuesday dismissing Trudeau’s claims as “absurd and motivated.” India’s foreign ministry went on to say that Trudeau’s claims “seek to shift focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been sheltered in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Canadian government’s inaction on this matter has been a long-standing and persistent concern.”
Hardeep Singh Nijjar was designated a terrorist by Indian security agencies in 2020 and accused of planning attacks inside India’s Punjab state, home to around 16 million Sikhs.
The Khalistan movement, of which he was a part, seeks to form a breakaway state in the Punjab region called Khalistan and has supporters both in India and among the large global Sikh diaspora. Thousands died during a violent separatist insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s.
Months before Nijjar was shot by masked gunmen in the parking lot of a Sikh temple outside Vancouver on June 18, India stepped up a campaign to pressure countries including Canada, Australia, Britain and the United States, home to sizable Sikh communities and frequent pro- Khalistan protests to crack down on the movement.
Earlier this year, protesters in London and San Francisco 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 abroad.
India sees signs of renewed Sikh separatism and sounds the alarm
Trudeau on Monday did not provide specific evidence linking Indian agents to the shooting, but said Canada was investigating the killing along with allied nations. The controversy comes at an awkward time when Western nations, led by the Biden White House, are seeking to woo India as a geopolitical and trading partner and refrained from criticizing Modi over India’s authoritarian backsliding.
Trudeau said he had recently expressed “deep concern” to Indian security and intelligence officers over the killing and also conveyed them “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Modi while in India for Group of 20 -summit in New Delhi. month.
The visit proved packed, with Modi’s office announcing on September 10 that the two leaders had discussed the Khalistan issue, with Modi conveying “India’s strong concerns about continued anti-India activities by extremist elements in Canada.” Trudeau stayed a day longer than planned in New Delhi, which the Canadian embassy attributed to a technical problem with his flight.
The Liberal Party leader’s claim was particularly stunning because speculation had circulated for months among pro-Khalistan sympathizers – as well as Indian nationalists – that Nijjar’s shooting may have been linked to two other deaths that occurred within 45 days .
Supporters of Indian separatists using Twitter bots to promote violence
In May, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, also an Indian designated terrorist, was shot dead by masked gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan. And days before Nijjar’s shooting, Avtar Singh Khanda, a British-based pro-Khalistan leader who raised the movement’s flag over Indian Embassy in London during the attack, died in a Birmingham hospital. (British police said they were not investigating Khanda’s death.)
The Indian government did not comment at the time of the deaths, but theories of a state link became television fodder, with several popular nationalist channels and pro-government analysts obliquely praising India’s hard-line approach to Sikh separatism and its arrival at the top echelon. of the world’s secret operators.
One of the channels, Zee News, asked if Nijjar’s death “will blow away even Israel’s mind.” Another, Times Now, wondered if India’s Research and Analysis Wing, the external intelligence agency, had become “the new Mossad.”