Some of these allied countries, including the United States, however, declined to join Canada in jointly announcing the findings of the ongoing investigation, underscoring efforts by the Biden administration to avoid antagonizing India and court Asian power as a strategic counterweight to China. .
The expelled Canadian diplomat was not named in an Indian government statement, but was described by the Hindustan Times as the head of the New Delhi station of Canadian intelligence.
Trudeau says ‘credible allegations’ link India to Canada killings
The Indian government issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting Trudeau’s accusation, calling it “absurd and motivated.” India’s foreign ministry added that the allegations “seek to divert attention from Khalistan terrorists and extremists, who have taken refuge in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The Canadian government’s inaction on this issue has been a long-standing and ongoing concern.
Nijjar was designated a terrorist by Indian security agencies in 2020 and accused of supporting attacks in the Indian state of Punjab, home to around 16 million Sikhs. India has requested his extradition from Canada in 2022.
The movement he was part of seeks to form a breakaway state called Khalistan in the Punjab region and has supporters in India and among the large global Sikh diaspora. Thousands of people died during a separatist insurgency in Punjab in the 1980s and 1990s, and the Indian government this year launched a massive manhunt for a pro-Khalistan militant leader.
Months before Nijjar was shot dead by masked gunmen in the parking lot of a Sikh temple outside Vancouver on June 18, India stepped up its pressure campaign on countries including Canada, Australia , Britain and the United States, which are home to large Sikh communities and frequent pro-Khalistan protests to suppress the movement.
Earlier this year, protesters in London and San Francisco stormed the grounds of Indian diplomatic missions to raise their movement’s flag, angering the government in New Delhi. Indian officials say Khalistan supporters have also targeted Indian diplomats posted abroad.
India sees signs of renewed Sikh separatism and sounds the alarm
On Monday, Trudeau did not provide specific evidence linking Indian agents to the shooting, but said Canada was studying the killing with allied countries. The controversy comes at a delicate moment when Western countries, led by the White House, are seeking to woo India as a geopolitical and trade partner and have refrained from criticizing Prime Minister Narendra Modi for India’s authoritarian backsliding .
In recent months, Canada has begun pushing its closest allies, members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network – comprising the United States, Canada, Britain, Australia and New Zealand – to raise the Nijjar assassination with India at the highest levels of government and discuss the matter. a joint statement condemning the act as contrary to international norms, said a Western official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to diplomatic sensitivities.
But several countries, including the United States, hesitated, fearing a diplomatic reaction from the Modi government, at a time when India was to organize a sumptuous coming-out party on the international stage, the G20 summit in New Delhi, the West. an official said. Instead, the alleged assassination was discussed privately by several senior officials from the Five Eyes countries in the weeks leading up to the summit, which took place on September 9-10.
The summit proved difficult, with Trudeau visibly sidelined and deprived of formal bilateral negotiations with Modi. The Indian Prime Minister’s Office announced on September 10 that the two leaders had discussed the Khalistan issue on the sidelines of the summit and that Modi had expressed India’s “deep concerns over continued anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada. Trudeau stayed a day longer than planned in New Delhi, which the high commission, or Canadian embassy, attributed to a technical problem with his plane.
On Monday, Trudeau made this announcement alone in Parliament. He said he had expressed his “deep concerns” to Indian security and intelligence officials about the killing and conveyed those concerns “personally and directly” and “in no uncertain terms” to Modi during his stay in India.
Washington described itself as “deeply concerned” by the allegations and said it was essential that “Canada’s investigation continues and the perpetrators are brought to justice,” according to a statement from the council’s spokesperson. National Security Director of the White House, Adrienne Watson.
A spokesperson for Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said her country had raised the issue with India at “senior levels” and expressed “deep concern”.
Karthik Nachiappan, an expert on India-Canada relations at the National University of Singapore, said the presence of Khalistan supporters in Canada has long been the “cancerous tissue” in relations between the two countries, but that the alleged assassination – if true – could create “much more damage to the whole body” of Indian foreign policy.
“Canada is a G7 country, and it’s also an ally of countries that have similar problems like the United Kingdom, like Australia, like the United States – who are also increasingly concerned about this issue of foreign interference,” Nachiappan said. “It’s no longer just about killing. This has become a much larger issue of geopolitics, dealing with how countries like China, Russia – and now India have been added – influence and attempt to interfere in liberal democracies.”
Underscoring India’s concern about the threat posed by the Khalistan movement, Indian officials this year called on several Western countries to take a tougher stance on its supporters, including dispersing protests outside his missions abroad. In March, India removed concrete security barriers outside the British High Commission in New Delhi, in an apparent bid to punish the British government for failing to protect the Indian High Commission in London, which had been taken stormed and defaced by Khalistan protesters.
Western officials say their governments have told Indian officials they are committed to beefing up security at Indian missions abroad, but remain committed to allowing peace meetings and political speeches in their capitals.
The Canadian Liberal Party leader’s public allegation was particularly stunning because speculation had swirled for months among pro-Khalistan sympathizers – as well as Indian nationalists – that the Nijjar shooting may have been linked to two other deaths in the 45 days.
Supporters of Indian separatists use Twitter bots to promote violence
In May, Paramjit Singh Panjwar, also designated a terrorist by India, was shot dead by masked gunmen in Lahore, Pakistan. And days before the Nijjar shootings, Avtar Singh Khanda, a Britain-based pro-Khalistan leader who raised the movement’s flag over the Indian high commission in London during the assault, died in a Birmingham Hospital. (British police said they were not investigating Khanda’s death.)
The Indian government made no comment at the time of the deaths, but theories of a state connection have become fodder on television, with several popular nationalist channels and pro-government analysts indirectly praising the government’s hardline approach. India towards Sikh separatism and the arrival of Indian intelligence services in the country. the upper echelon of the world’s secret operators.
One of the channels, Zee News, asked whether Nijjar’s death “will blow even the spirit of Israel.” Another, Times Now, wondered whether India’s research and analysis wing, the foreign intelligence service, had become “the new Mossad”.
John Wagner in Washington contributed to this report.