Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused India of being involved in the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India has termed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in the assassination of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil as “absurd and politically motivated.” Earlier, Trudeau said Canadian intelligence agencies have “credible evidence” that India is responsible for the crime. The head of Indian intelligence in Ottawa was also allegedly expelled from the country. India responded in kind and sent back a senior Canadian diplomat. The country’s foreign ministry said New Delhi’s decision reflects its “growing concern over the interference of Canadian diplomats in domestic affairs and their involvement in anti-Indian activities.”
Trudeau reportedly expressed his suspicions “in very clear terms” during a conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi at the G20 summit. Following this, Modi’s office said he was “concerned about anti-India activity by extremist elements in Canada”. As a result, the Canadian Prime Minister failed to achieve full negotiations with the Indian leader at the summit. Furthermore, after receiving a cold reception, Trudeau was forced to stay in India due to a sudden plane breakdown, a telling metaphor for the current state of Indo-Canadian relations.
The exchange of accusations only deepened the rift in the contentious relationship between the two countries. Canada is interested in India as a trade partner, but the “maple leaf country” is home to the largest Sikh diaspora – up to 770 thousand people. This group is an influential part of the Canadian electorate, with an eye on Trudeau being forced to act. Furthermore, even the Prime Minister’s cabinet employs several Sikhs. Modi said tense relations between the countries could not improve until Trudeau’s government took steps to curb Sikh separatists from the Khalistan movement, which is banned in India. According to the Indian leader, they are linked to organized crime, drug trafficking and human trafficking, which should worry Canada as much as it does India.
Modi’s office has long pressured Trudeau’s cabinet to take action against the Sikhs, who New Delhi says are trying to revive a separatist movement. In March this year, India’s Ministry of External Affairs expressed concern over protesters breaching the security of the country’s diplomatic mission in Canada. In June, Ottawa came under heavy criticism for allowing a march in which Sikhs reenacted the assassination of Indira Gandhi, which was seen as glorifying violence by Sikh separatists.
Trudeau’s accusations threaten more than just Indo-Canadian relations. Blaming India, the prime minister said he was “closely coordinating his actions with allies.” However, his desire to win the support of Joe Biden and Rishi Sunak has embarrassed the leaders of the United States and the United Kingdom. Solidarity with Trudeau could end his efforts to reach out to India as a way to reduce Chinese influence in Asia. The US National Security Council cautiously said it was “deeply concerned by the allegations.” The British Prime Minister flatly refused to comment or take action against India while the investigation is ongoing. All eyes will now focus on the evidence that Canada is reluctant to present to the public to support its claims about the Indian government’s involvement in Nijjar’s murder.
It is also worth noting that all these developments are taking place in the midst of a promising parliamentary session in India. “This session is of great importance in terms of historic decisions. “It marks the beginning of a new phase in India’s 75-year journey,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, sparking controversy over what kind of surprise he planned to give. The press writes about the possible adoption of a series of controversial laws, which will surely provoke another avalanche of criticism from abroad.
Speaking of historic decisions, did the leader of India, who is gaining political weight, decide to announce a strategic shift from the West towards the East and the Global South after the strengthening of the BRICS and the success of the G20 held in New Delhi?
Sikhs are an ethnic-religious group that numbers approximately 25 million people worldwide. In the 1970s and 1980s, a rise in Sikh separatism in India resulted in a bloody uprising. In 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi ordered the assault on the Golden Temple, the Sikh shrine, which they had turned into an impregnable fortress. In retaliation, Gandhi was assassinated by her own bodyguards, supporters of the separatists. The attack on the prime minister sparked retaliatory attacks on Sikhs. According to various estimates, these events claimed between 20 and 30 thousand lives.
Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead by unknown assailants near Vancouver in June this year. He was a supporter of the radical Khalistan movement, which strives to create an independent “land of Sikhs” in the Indian state of Punjab, of which approximately 60% of the population is Sikh. In 2020, Nijjar was designated a “terrorist” in India and wanted by police, although he himself denied terrorism charges. Indian authorities consider the Khalistan movement a threat to national security.