Canada, India expel envoys over killing of Sikh leader | Canada | Albiseyler

Canada and India have announced diplomatic expulsions following Justin Trudeau’s explosive accusation that New Delhi was behind a state-sponsored assassination on Canadian soil – a charge India derided as “absurd”.

Canada’s prime minister on Tuesday stood firm on allegations that India was involved in the death of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Niijar, who was shot dead in Surrey, British Columbia, in June.

“India – and the Government of India – must take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing it,” Trudeau said. “We don’t want to provoke or escalate. We are simply stating the facts as we understand them.”

Trudeau called the allegations “extremely serious” and warned that they have “far-reaching consequences” in international law. “We’re going to follow the evidence and make sure the work is done to hold people accountable,” Trudeau said.

Late Monday, Canada’s foreign minister expelled Pavan Kumar Rai, the top member of India’s foreign intelligence agency based in Canada.

Indian authorities soon retaliated, ordering a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within five days after he summoned High Commissioner Cameron Mackay. Canadian officials did not identify the diplomat, but local media reports named Olivier Sylvester, the Canadian intelligence station chief in New Delhi.

Canada also updated its travel advisories on Tuesday, warning visitors to take extra care in India due to the threat of terrorist attacks across the country.

The double expulsion escalated tensions between the two G20 members and derailed talks on a possible bilateral trade deal. But the dispute also raises the prospect of mutual allies and turning the dispute into a wider diplomatic quagmire.

A senior Canadian official told Reuters the country had worked “very closely” with the United States on the intelligence behind Trudeau’s indictment.

In a statement on Tuesday, the US State Department said it was “deeply concerned” by the allegations and that it was “critical” that the Canadian investigation continue, but did not confirm that officials had provided intelligence to their Canadian counterparts.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that his government
he supported the Canadian investigation, adding that he expected India’s “full cooperation” in the investigation. “Obviously we have a very strong relationship with Canada, a very strong relationship with India,” he said.

But India’s Ministry of External Affairs said the expulsions reflected “growing concerns about the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal affairs and their involvement in anti-India activities.”

India has again raised allegations that Canada is providing safe haven to “Khalistan terrorists and extremists”, which it warned undermines “India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.

India has long demanded that Canada take action against the Sikh independence movement, which is banned in India but has support in countries with large Sikh diaspora populations such as Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom.

Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside of Punjab, with about 770,000 people – 2% of the country’s population – reporting Sikhism as their religion.

On social media, prominent Indian personalities sharply criticized Trudeau. One called the legislator the Canadian Prime Minister “the biggest prankster pretending to be a leader currently on the planet” and suggested the authorities reduce security at the Canadian High Commission. Retired general Gaurav Arya said the diplomatic mission should be closed and warned Canadians to “close shop and leave before they kick you out.”

Trudeau’s announcement on Monday that Canadian security agencies believe “agents of India” played a role in Najjir’s death sent shockwaves across the country and prompted calls for the federal government to release more details about the investigation.

“The Prime Minister must clarify all the facts.” We need to know all the evidence possible so that Canadians can judge this,” said Pierre Poilivre, leader of the opposition Conservative Party.

David Eby, Premier of British Columbia, said: “I again call on the federal government to share all relevant information regarding any known ongoing foreign interference and transnational organized crime threats with our provincial authorities and our government so that we can act in a coordinated manner to protect those who are threat.”

Police have still not publicly identified the two masked men who opened fire on Najjir as he sat in his car at the back entrance of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara. The two men fled on foot down the street, across the park and into a waiting car. In August, the Integrated Homicide Squad told reporters that a silver Toyota Camry was the suspect’s getaway vehicle and that authorities were searching for a third suspect.

Nijjar’s son Balraj, 21, said on Tuesday that he had always suspected that India was behind the murder. “It was only a matter of time before the truth came out,” he told the CBC.

The World Sikh Organization said the allegations confirmed “what Sikhs in Canada have known for decades” that India was actively targeting dissidents on board.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who heads Sikhs for Justice and was Najjira’s lawyer, earlier told the media that his client had been warned by CSIS of threats against his life in the days before the shooting. Pannun has since called for the immediate expulsion of Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Kumar Verma.

Canadian Immigration Minister Marc Miller published on social networks that Najjir became a Canadian citizen in 2015, disputing “baseless rumours” that the father of two does not have citizenship.

The revelations come just weeks after the federal government announced the head of a public inquiry into foreign interference in Canada.

Dominic LeBlanc, who serves as minister of public security and democratic institutions, said Quebec judge Marie-Josée Hogue will be tasked with “investigating and judging the foreign meddling of China, Russia and other foreign states and non-state actors” a “global challenge” to democracies.

On Tuesday, New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh wrote to Hogue asking that India be included in the public inquiry. “In my experience as a Sikh-Canadian, there has always been a suspicion that India has interfered with the democratic rights of Canadians,” Singh wrote in the letter. “Yesterday’s statement by the Prime Minister confirms that these suspicions are justified.”

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