Year Ender 2023: India’s diplomatic fallout with Canada over killing of terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar

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New Delhi [India], December 26: In an unexpected turn of events, diplomatic relations between India and Canada are facing a significant strain, raising concerns about the future of the bilateral partnership.
The fallout comes amidst security threats posed by the Khalistani terrorists residing safely in Canada and some serious allegations raised by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against the Indian government.
India and Canada’s long and historical relations turned into a diplomatic row after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised allegations against the Indian government over its involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
In September, Trudeau made the stunning revelation in the House of Commons that there was credible intelligence linking India’s government to the June 18 shooting death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C.
In the aftermath, India swiftly retaliated by issuing a statement that denied any involvement in the issue.
Interestingly, the Trudeau allegations follow Canada’s decision to seek a “pause” in the negotiations for an Early Progress Trade Agreement, as confirmed by Indian High Commissioner Sanjay Verma. Canada didn’t give any reason for suspending the talks.
Trudeau also came to India for the G20 summit, apparently upset that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was not invited to the event.
The New Delhi Leaders’ Declaration was also a far cry from his call ahead of the summit to hold Russia accountable for its actions in Ukraine. According to sources here, the Canadian PM insisted on a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the margins, despite India not being keen, and was finally allowed a 15-minute pull-aside. On his way to India, he had said that he was going to raise the issue of foreign interference if he managed to have a meeting with Modi.
Trudeau, however, seemed prepared for an escalation of tensions as he was reported to have briefed US President Joe Biden, UK PM Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macaron about Canada’s action, and also as his foreign minister Melanie Joly threatened to raise the issue with her G7 counterparts on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly (UNGA).
India-Canada ties have remained frosty for several years over widespread Khalistan extremism in Canada but the Trudeau government seemed to take the gloves off early this year when it publicly accused India of foreign interference, an issue the Canadian leader finally raised with Modi in their meeting on the margins of the G20 summit.
While Trudeau cited “credible” intelligence to back his claims about India’s involvement in Nijjar’s killing, the Indian government said in its response that Modi had already and completely rejected these allegations in his meeting with the Canadian PM.
India vehemently denied the claims, calling them “absurd and motivated.” Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Canada has provided “no specific information” to support the allegations.
“We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law,” said the Indian government in a statement, adding that such unsubstantiated allegations sought to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who had been provided shelter in Canada and continued to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The government also reiterated that the inaction of the Canadian government on Khalistan extremism had been a long-standing and continuing concern, while expressing deep concern that Canadian political figures openly expressed sympathy for the separatists.
“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 the Government of India to such developments,” it said, urging Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil.
While India has in the past attributed Canada’s inaction to vote-bank politics, Canada too has held for quite some time that India has been interfering in Sikh-related matters in the North American country.
Tit-for-tat retaliation: India-Canada relations hit a new low
India said, in response, that Trudeau’s unsubstantiated and absurd allegations were only meant to shift focus from Canada’s support for Khalistan terrorists.
After raising allegations against the Indian government, Canada expelled the Indian diplomat, Pavan Kumar Rai, a 1997-batch IPS officer.
Hours later, the Indian government ordered a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within 5 days, saying the decision reflected growing concern over the interference by Canadian diplomats in India’s internal affairs and their anti-India activities.
India summoned Canadian High Commissioner Cameron MacKay to convey its decision to expel the diplomat apparently associated with Canadian intelligence services.
Later on, India “suspended till further notice” its visa services in Canada amid a diplomatic row.
But in October, India decided to resume visa services in Canada for four categories after a considered review of the security situation, which “takes into account some recent Canadian measures in this regard.”
Entry visa, Business visa, Medical visa and Conference visa are four categories in which India has decided to resume visa services in Canada from October 26.
In a strongly worded statement to reporters, India’s foreign ministry spokesperson, Arindam Bagchi, said Canada needed to “worry about its international reputation” in the wake of its explosive allegations.
He added: “If you’re talking about reputational issues and reputational damage, if there’s any country that needs to look at this, I think it’s Canada and its growing reputation as a place, as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organised crime.”
His comments followed India’s move to suspend visa applications for Canadian citizens over what it says are “security threats” against diplomats in the country.
“The issue is the incitement of violence, the inaction by the Canadian authorities, the creation of an environment that disrupts the functioning of our high commission and consulates–that’s what’s making us temporarily stop the issuance of visas or providing visa services,” Bagchi added.
On December 17, while speaking at the Rotary Institute 2023 event in Bengaluru, Jaishankar asserted that India is a responsible country and is willing to look into the matter if any country has a concern and shares inputs, referring to the Canada allegations about the alleged link of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Canada “safe heaven” for Khalistani elements
The Khalistan movement is outlawed in India and considered a national security threat by the government; a number of groups associated with the movement are listed as “terrorist organisations” under India’s Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act (UAPA).
Nijjar’s name appeared on the Home Ministry’s list of UAPA terrorists.
In 2020, the Indian National Investigation Agency accused him of “trying to radicalise Sikh communities across the world in favour of the creation of ‘Khalistan,'” adding that he had been “trying to incite Sikhs to vote for secession, agitate against the government of India and carry out violent activities.”
Justin Trudeau’s apparent support for Khalistan extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar sets an example of the risks taken by these politicians playing vote-bank politics to win elections, even when it means aligning with extremist fringe elements, as author Dr Jasneet Bedi wrote in Khalsa Vox.
Canadian PM Trudeau’s stance on Khalistan extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar and his support seem to have strengthened the Khalistan extremists.
This dangerous game of political opportunism poses a clear and present danger to host countries like Canada, Khalsa Vox reported.
The immense support for Nijjar, who has ties to the terrorist outfit Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), has left many Canadians puzzled, Khalsa Vox reported.
Although political leaders should represent unity, diversity and the well-being of all citizens, it seems that electoral considerations sometimes lead them to a more perilous and unfaithful path, which further undermines the values that Canada stands for.
Moreover, Trudeau’s blame on India for Nijjar’s death without providing concrete evidence only adds to their division, reported Khalsa Vox.
Such actions not only boost extremism but further crumble trust between nations, which is somehow important for maintaining international peace and cooperation.
For instance, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) 2020 report highlighted the connection between some individuals involved with the Khalistan movement and criminal activities like drug trafficking, extortion, money laundering, and kidnapping.
Adding to this, the report also stated that these individuals often have links with Mexican drug cartels, facilitating the smuggling of cocaine into Canada, reported Khalsa Vox.
Meanwhile, in Punjab, these groups are connected with South Asian gangs involved in cross-border smuggling of heroin, according to the RCMP’s findings.
Reportedly, these connections between extremism, criminality and drug trafficking represent a serious threat to the security and well-being of all Canadians.
Security concerns: Alleged presence of individuals with Khalistan links in Canada
Pannun, who is a designated terrorist by the National Investigation Agency (NIA), in a recent video threatened to attack Parliament on or before December 13. Pannun holds the dual citizenship of both the US and Canada.
He also released a new video asking Sikhs not to fly in Air India aircraft after November 19, as their lives can be under threat.
Earlier, Pannun, in a video that circulated on social media, said pro-Khalistan Sikhs have consistently shown loyalty to Canada. He then went on to threaten Indo-Canadian Hindus, urging them to leave the country.
Following the spread of a hateful speech by Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Hindu Forum Canada’s Lawyers asked the Canadian Immigration Minister to ban Pannun’s entry into Canadian territory.
Hindu Forum Canada’s Lawyer wrote to the Minister of Immigration of Canada, Mark Miller, stating that Pannun’s recent comments have caused distress and trauma not only within the Hindu community but also among Canadian citizens at large.

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