Following claims that Indian government operatives may have been involved in the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil, tensions between Canada and India have erupted. With the expulsion of senior diplomats and further strain on their relationship, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s claim that his government was looking into “credible allegations” of Indian government involvement in Nijjar’s death has set off a diplomatic spat between the two countries.
The Contentious Murder Claims
Tragically, 45-year-old Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot and died in June in Surrey, British Columbia, close to Vancouver, outside a Sikh cultural center. Because of Nijjar’s vocal support for the creation of an independent Sikh state, India designated him as a “terrorist.”
A strong message was delivered to Parliament by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who called any foreign government’s complicity in the death of a citizen of Canada “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” In order to find out the real reason behind Nijjar’s death, he pleaded with India to assist with the investigation.
Ottawa dismissed a senior Indian diplomat, whom Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly revealed to be the chief of Indian intelligence, in reaction to Canada’s accusations. But within five days, India immediately replied, dismissing a top Canadian diplomat due to worries that these diplomats were involved in anti-Indian activities and were meddling in domestic affairs of India.
Long-standing Charges and the Sikh Exile
Canada is alleged by India to have backed the Khalistan movement, which aims to create an independent Sikh nation. The large Sikh minority in Canada, which makes up about 2% of the country’s population, has caused friction between the two countries. The Sikh diaspora in nations like Canada and the UK supports the Khalistan movement, which is illegal in India.
Allegations Are Rejected by India as “Absurd”
India fiercely denied the Canadian accusations of Nijjar’s murder, calling them “absurd and motivated.” The Indian foreign ministry countered that these charges are a ploy to draw attention away from the fact that radicals and terrorists from Khalistani provinces are still in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The Upheaval in Intergovernmental Relations
Anxiety had already grown between India and Canada before this latest disagreement. Trudeau’s decision to forgo a formal bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit underscored the tense relationship between the two leaders. A scheduled trade mission to India has been rescheduled, and negotiations on a possible trade agreement have been suspended.
During their brief conversation, Modi conveyed his worries to Trudeau, citing pro-independence Sikh protests in Canada that encourage secessionism and have been linked to events against Indian diplomats and diplomatic facilities.
Obstacles Up Ahead
The accusations of murder and the ensuing diplomatic controversy present serious obstacles to Canada-India ties. Due to the escalating tensions, the two countries’ goal of concluding a trade agreement by the end of the year is now in doubt.
Experts are concerned that the relationship may worsen even further since claims of killing a Canadian citizen abroad and meddling in domestic matters constitute a serious transgression of diplomatic standards.