(Update 2: Adds India’s expulsion of Canadian diplomat, changes lede, minor edits)
New Delhi/Toronto, Sep 19 (EFE).- Canadian authorities are investigating “credible allegations” that could link the Indian government to the killing of a Sikh leader in British Columbia, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told lawmakers.
In response, India on Tuesday dismissed the claims as “absurd” and expelled a Canadian envoy from the country.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, was shot dead by unknown assailants in the parking lot of Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sikh temple in the Metro Vancouver suburb of Surrey on June 18.
The Canadian citizen advocated for an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan in Punjab and was designated by India as a “terrorist” in July 2020.
“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said in an emergency statement to the House of Commons.
“Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence and security officials of the Indian government. Last week at the G20 I took them personally and directly to Prime Minister Narendra Modi in no uncertain terms,” he added.
“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said, urging in “the strongest possible terms” that the Indian government cooperate with Ottawa to get to the bottom of the incident.
Following Trudeau’s statement, Foreign Minister Melanie Joly ordered the expulsion of “a senior Indian diplomat.”
Public broadcaster Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported Joly’s office as confirming the diplomat as Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of the Research and Analysis Wing of India’s foreign intelligence agency in Canada.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs on Tuesday said it had given a senior Canadian diplomat five days to leave the country.
“The High Commissioner of Canada to India was summoned today and informed about the decision of the Government of India to expel a senior Canadian diplomat based in India,” the ministry said.
“The decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”
Earlier Tuesday, it had in a statement rejected Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd and motivated” and accused Ottawa of attempting to “shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists.”
“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,” it added.
On Sep. 1, Canada unexpectedly announced it had suspended talks on a proposed trade agreement with India, and at the weekend it canceled a trade mission to India that should have taken place next month.
About 1.8 million people of Indian origin live in Canada, of which about 770,000 are Sikhs, including the leader of the New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh.
“To all Canadians, this is my vow. I will leave no stone unturned in the pursuit of justice, including holding Narendra Modi accountable,” he wrote on X after Trudeau’s announcement on Monday. EFE