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India rejects Canada’s allegations over links to assassination of Sikh leader

India has rejected Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that the Indian government has links to the assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader, calling them “absurd and motivated” and expelled a Canadian diplomat amid growing tensions between the two countries.

India’s action came hours after Canada expelled an Indian diplomat.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had campaigned for an independent Sikh country, was shot dead on June 18 outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. He had been designated as a “terrorist” by India.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau told Parliament on Monday that Canadian security agencies were “pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between Indian government agents” and Nijjar’s killing.

“Any involvement by a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he said.

Trudeau said he raised the issue of the killing and allegations of Indian government involvement in it with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit in New Delhi and asked India to cooperate to the investigation.

In response to his comments, India’s foreign ministry said in a statement that Modi had rejected the accusations when they were raised by Trudeau. “Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister and have been completely dismissed.”

The statement said: “We are a democratic regime with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”

India’s foreign ministry has highlighted India’s concerns that Canada is providing sanctuary to Sikh “extremists.”

According to the statement, “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.”

Urging the Canadian government “to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil”, New Delhi said it remained worrying that “Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements”.

India’s expulsion of a Canadian diplomat came a day after Canadian Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly said Ottawa had expelled India’s intelligence chief to Canada over apparent concerns over Nijjar’s killing .

Nijjar, a prominent Sikh leader in British Columbia, had publicly campaigned for the creation of Khalistan, the name given by activists to an independent homeland for Sikhs they want to separate from the northern state of Punjab. ‘India.

Claims over Khalistan led to a bloody insurgency in India in the 1980s and early 1990s and the deaths of thousands, including many senior officials. But the movement has lost its strength and now enjoys little support in Punjab.

The cause of Khalistan, however, remains a rallying cry among some sections of the Sikh diaspora in countries like Britain and Canada, which have significant Sikh populations – Canada has the largest Sikh population outside of the Indian state of Punjab.

Groups that support the creation of an independent Sikh homeland in these countries have angered the Indian government, and New Delhi has urged their governments to rein in what it calls Sikh “extremists.”

Nijjar was designated by India as a “terrorist” in July 2020. Promoting the cause of Khalistan has been banned in India.

According to reports, Nijjar was holding an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh nation at the time of his death. Indian authorities also announced a cash reward last year for information leading to his arrest, accusing him of being involved in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

The United States has expressed concern over Trudeau’s allegations. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is essential that the Canadian investigation continues and that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” said White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. in a press release.

Britain and Australia have also expressed concern over the accusations.

At the same time, the intensification of the diplomatic conflict between India and Canada has also fueled tensions around trade negotiations between the two countries, which have been suspended.

After Canada postponed a trade mission scheduled to arrive in India next month, Indian Commerce Minister Piyush Goyal told the news site First post, “We have paused trade dialogue with Canada. We need to make sure that geopolitically and economically we are on the same page.