Nijjar, Trudeau's allegations and India's counter: All you need to know

Both countries have expelled diplomats from the other country in a show of protest and disagreement; here's all you need to know about it

Justin Trudeau

Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Photo: AP/PTI)

BS Web Team New Delhii
India-Canada relations have been under pressure after Hardeep Singh Nijjar's death and the following comments by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Both the countries have expelled diplomats from the other country in a show of protest and disagreement.

On Tuesday, Canada updated its travel advisory for India amid escalating tension. The travel advisory focuses on the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir. It advised against all travel to this region, citing the "highly unpredictable security situation".

Canada said in its advisory, "Avoid all travel to the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir due to the unpredictable security situation. There is a threat of terrorism, militancy, civil unrest, and kidnapping. This advisory excludes travelling to or within the Union Territory of Ladakh."

Regarding the northeast, it said, "Several extremist and insurgent groups are active in the northeastern states of Assam and Manipur. They regularly target local government and security forces and may use various criminal activities to finance their activities. Ethnic tensions in the State can also lead to conflict and civil unrest."

Moreover, the security around the Canadian High Commission in New Delhi has been increased.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar: Who was he, and how did he die?

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Khalistani separatist living in Canada. He was one of India's most wanted terrorists who carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head. Nijjar was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen outside a gurdwara in Surrey in the western Canadian province of British Columbia on June 18.

Hailing from Bharsinghpur village in Punjab's Jalandhar, Nijjar was based in Surrey and had been declared "absconder" by the National Investigation Agency (NIA).

What did Justin Trudeau say after Nijjar's death?

Canadian PM Trudeau on Monday alleged that the Indian government was behind the fatal shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

In a statement in the House of Commons in Canada's parliament, Trudeau said Canadian security agencies have been "actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar".

"Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental roles by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves," he said.

"As one would expect, we have been working closely and coordinating with our allies on this very serious matter. 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.

Later, Canada's Foreign Minister Melanie Joly announced that a "top Indian diplomat" had been expelled from Canada. Joly's office said the diplomat, who had been ordered to leave Canada, is Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).

India's reaction to Trudeau's allegations

On Tuesday, India rejected Trudeau's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated" and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat action.

In a strongly-worded statement, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) also trashed comments by Trudeau and Foreign Minister Melanie Joly, asserting that "such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India's sovereignty and territorial integrity".

Though New Delhi did not divulge the name of the Canadian diplomat who had been asked to leave India within five days, PTI reported that it was the Canadian intelligence agency's station chief in New Delhi, Olivier Sylvestere.

"The high commissioner of Canada to India was summoned today and informed about the decision of the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India. The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days," the MEA said in a statement.

The MEA said the "inaction" of the Canadian government on this matter has been "long-standing" and of continuing concern.

"That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new," it said.

"We reject any attempts to connect the Government of India to such developments. We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil," it added.

'Not trying to provoke India': Trudeau

Later on Tuesday, Trudeau said that Canada is not trying to provoke India by any means.

"We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them," the Canadian Prime Minister told reporters, according to CBC news. "The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that."

"As for Canada, I said yesterday...we are going to remain calm, we are going to remain grounded in our democratic principles and values.... and we are going to follow the evidence and make sure the work is done...," he added.

G20 Summit and Modi-Trudeau meeting

Earlier this month, on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, PM Narendra Modi had met Trudeau. According to the official statement, Modi had raised objections to the presence of extremist elements in Canada with Trudeau.

"He conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada. They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organised crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," the statement said.

What are the others saying?

Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) expressed concerns about India and Canada's "souring" relationship. SGPC President Harjinder Singh Dhami said that both countries should bring the matters on the agenda of serious consideration as the people of the community are large in number in Canada.

"Today, the Sikhs are living across the globe, whose human rights as well as religious concerns are also important. The Sikh community has gone through many painful times, including the June 1984 military attack on Sachkhand Sri Harmandir Sahib and Akal Takht Sahib, the 1984 Sikh Genocide and the extra-judicial killings of Sikh youths over a decade. The Sikh community living across the globe can never forget this pain," he added.

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) termed Trudeau's allegations as "baseless" and "ironical". It said it is unfortunate that some Canadian political figures have openly expressed their sympathy with groups and individuals who indulge in anti-India activities.

On Tuesday, the US said it is "deeply concerned" about the allegations made by Trudeau. "We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by PM Trudeau yesterday. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners," a State Department spokesperson told PTI.

"It is critical that Canada's investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice. We urge the Indian government to cooperate in the Canadian investigation and ensure that those responsible are held to account," the spokesperson said.

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Sep 20 2023 | 09:40 AM IST

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