Canada Alleges Modi Govt's Role in Pro-Khalistan Leader's Killing, India Denies

Canada has also expelled Indian diplomat Pavan Kumar Rai over pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar's killing.

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Three months after the killing of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) chief Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that the country's security agencies were investigating "potential links" between agents of the Indian government and the alleged assassination of Nijjar.

The Trudeau-led government also expelled top Indian diplomat Pavan Kumar Rai. He is a 1997 batch Punjab cadre IPS officer, posted as a minister in the Indian mission in Ottawa, Canada.

Addressing the Canadian Parliament on Monday, 18 September, Trudeau added that he discussed the killing with his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in New Delhi last week.

Trudeau had told the Indian PM “in no uncertain terms” that any involvement of the Indian government would be "unacceptable."

In response to Trudeau's comments, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) issued a statement on Tuesday, 19 September, calling the allegations "absurd and motivated."

"Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern."
India's Ministry of External Affairs statement

As of now, Canadian authorities have not made any arrests in connection with Nijjar's murder. However, in August, the police had released a statement indicating that they were actively investigating three potential suspects.


What Canadian PM Justin Trudeau Said

Addressing Canada's House of Commons, Trudeau said:

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. Canada is a rule of law country, the protection of our citizens in defence of our sovereignty are fundamental."

"Our top priorities have, therefore, been one, that our law enforcement and security agencies ensure the continued safety of all Canadians. And two, that all steps be taken to hold perpetrators of this murder to account," he added, according to a report by The Guardian.

Trudeau further said that he expects India to "reiterate that its position on extra-judicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally in line with international law.”


Canada's Opposition Leaders React to Allegations

Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party, emphasised the need for repercussions in light of this assassination.

"To hear the Canadian Prime Minister acknowledge a potential connection between the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil and a foreign government is beyond what I could have imagined," he remarked while adding, "We are committed to leaving no stone unturned and to thoroughly investigate every possible lead."

He also took to X (formerly Twitter) to say:

"Today we learned of allegations that agents of the Indian Government murdered Hardeep Singh Nijjar – a Canadian killed on Canadian soil. To all Canadians, this is my vow. I will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable."
Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada's New Democratic Party

Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre said that if Trudeau's allegations were true, they “represent an outrageous affront to Canada."

"Canadians deserve to be protected on Canadian soil. We call on the Indian government to act with utmost transparency as authorities investigate this murder, because the truth must come out," he added.


MEA Calls the Allegations 'Absurd'

Denying Trudeau's allegations, the MEA further said: "Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected. We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law."

The statement added, "That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern. The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities including murders, human trafficking and organised crime is not new. We reject any attempts to connect Government of India to such developments. We urge the Government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil."


India-Canada Ties Continue To Dwindle 

The relationship between India and Canada has faced tension due to the activities of pro-Khalistan groups.

A day after his government set up a public enquiry into allegations of foreign interference in Canada's internal affairs, Trudeau took off for the G20 Summit in India where he said, “It is incredibly important that we continue to protect Canadians from any and all types of interference."

“One of the things we’re focused on in this enquiry is recognising, yes, China and Russia are responsible for interference, but other countries engage in it as well,” he said, adding the commission “will go where the facts bring them," he added on 8 September.

During the G20 Summit, PM Modi reportedly told Trudeau that Canada must do more to curb extremism and expressed "strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada."

Subsequently, negotiations between the two countries on a free trade agreement (FTA), which resumed after a decade, came to a halt and officials said they would resume after "political issues are resolved."

Just in 2023 alone, India has taken action by summoning the Canadian high commissioner on at least two occasions this year to express its concerns regarding the activities of Khalistan activists in Canada. In March, India lodged a protest against the "actions of separatist and extremist elements against our diplomatic Mission and Consulates in Canada" following rallies organised by these groups.

In July, India summoned the Canadian envoy and issued a formal démarche, prompted by the appearance of posters naming senior Indian diplomats posted in Canada and accusing the Indian government of being involved in the killing of Nijjar.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc also said that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director David Vigneault and National Security Adviser Jody Thomas had recently visited India to discuss the killing.


How Different Countries Responded

Several countries responded to the stand-off between India and Canada, and expressed concerns over the seriousness of the unprecedented allegations.

"We are deeply concerned about allegations by PM Trudeau on India. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical Canada's investigation proceed & perpetrators be brought to justice," White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement.

Australia responded in a similar fashion, saying that it was “deeply concerned” by the claims made by Canada and asserted that “all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law."

However, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese told a reporter to "chill out" when asked if the former regretted calling Narendra Modi "the boss" at an event earlier this year, The Guardian reported.

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