India, Canada expel diplomats over accusations Delhi killed Sikh separatist – The Washington Post

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NEW DELHI — India expelled a Canadian diplomat Tuesday in retaliation after Canadian officials accused Indian government agents of shooting dead a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia and expelled an Indian diplomat they identified as an intelligence officer.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s assassination allegation, made in an explosive speech to Parliament on Monday, sent relations between the two countries to their lowest point, but also had wider ramifications on ties between the U.S.-led alliance and India, which the Biden administration has assiduously courted as a strategic counterweight to China.

India expelled a Canadian diplomat on September 19 after officials accused Indian government agents of shooting dead a Sikh leader in British Columbia. (Video: Reuters)

The expelled Canadian diplomat was not named in an Indian government statement, but was described by the Hindustan Times as the head of the Canadian intelligence station in New Delhi.

Trudeau says ‘credible allegations’ link India to Canada killings

The Indian government issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting Trudeau’s accusation, calling it “absurd and motivated.” India’s foreign ministry added that the allegations “seek to divert attention from Khalistan terrorists and extremists, who have taken refuge in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The Canadian government’s inaction on this issue has been a long-standing and ongoing concern.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was designated a terrorist by Indian security agencies in 2020 and accused of planning attacks in the Indian state of Punjab, 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 in India and among the large global Sikh diaspora. Thousands died during a separatist insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s.

Months before Nijjar was shot dead by masked gunmen in the parking lot of a Sikh temple outside Vancouver on June 18, India stepped up its pressure campaign on countries including Canada, Australia , Britain and the United States, which are home to large Sikh communities and frequent pro-Khalistan protests to suppress 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 government in New Delhi. Indian officials say Khalistan supporters have also targeted Indian diplomats posted abroad.

India sees signs of renewed Sikh separatism and sounds the alarm

On Monday, Trudeau did not provide specific evidence linking Indian agents to the shooting, but said Canada was investigating the killing with allied countries. The controversy comes at a delicate moment when Western countries, led by the White House, are seeking to woo India as a geopolitical and trade partner and have refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s authoritarian backsliding .

On September 18, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that India was potentially linked to the murder of Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. (Video: CTV via AP)

Trudeau said he had recently expressed his “deep concerns” to Indian security and intelligence officials about the killing and conveyed those concerns “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Modi as he was in India for the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi this month. month.

The visit proved difficult, with Modi’s office announcing on September 10 that the two leaders had discussed the issue of Khalistan and that Modi had expressed India’s “deep concerns over continued anti-India activities of “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 plane.

The Liberal Party leader’s allegation was particularly surprising because speculation had been circulating for months among pro-Khalistan sympathizers – as well as Indian nationalists – that the Nijjar shootings may have been linked to two other deaths in the 45 days.

Supporters of Indian separatists use Twitter bots to promote violence

In May, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, also designated a terrorist by India, was shot dead by masked gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan. And days before the Nijjar shootings, Avtar Singh Khanda, a Britain-based pro-Khalistan leader who raised the movement’s flag over the Indian embassy in London during the assault, 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 connection have become fodder on television, with several popular nationalist channels and pro-government analysts indirectly praising the government’s hardline approach. India towards Sikh separatism and its arrival at the upper echelons. secret operators of the world.

One of the channels, Zee News, asked whether Nijjar’s death “will blow even the spirit of Israel.” Another, Times Now, wondered whether India’s research and analysis wing, the foreign intelligence service, had become “the new Mossad”.

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