Tensions escalated between Canada and India on Tuesday following Ottawa’s accusation that New Delhi may be behind the killing of a Sikh activist on Canadian soil, with both sides expelling senior diplomats as India dismissed the allegation as “absurd”.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday accused Indian government agents of involvement in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whom India had labeled a “terrorist” because of his advocacy for an independent Sikh state. Nijjar, 45, was shot and killed in June outside a Sikh cultural center in Surrey, British Columbia, a suburb of Vancouver.
“Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau told Parliament on Monday. “In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the Indian government to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
Hours later on Monday, Ottawa announced the expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat from Canada.
New Delhi responded Tuesday by saying a senior Canadian diplomat had been asked to leave India within the next five days. India’s foreign ministry said the expulsion reflected the government’s “growing concern over interference by Canadian diplomats in our internal affairs and their involvement in anti-Indian activities.”
India has long accused Canada, where about 2 percent of the population is Sikh, of supporting a movement to establish an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan. The movement is banned in India but has supporters among the Sikh diaspora in countries including Canada and Britain.
India’s foreign ministry had previously rejected Canadian allegations regarding Nijjar’s killing, calling them “absurd and motivated.”
“Such unsubstantiated allegations are aimed at diverting attention from Khalistan terrorists and extremists, who have taken refuge in Canada and continue to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of India,” he said in a communicated Tuesday.
The ministry said the allegations were also dismissed when Trudeau spoke about them with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hosted Trudeau and other world leaders in New Delhi this month during the annual summit of the Group of 20 economies .
The White House said it was “deeply concerned” by Trudeau’s allegations.
“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “It is essential that Canada’s investigation continues and that the perpetrators are brought to justice. »