India dismisses as ‘absurd’ Canada’s accusation on Sikh leader’s murder

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia in June, had been designated a ‘terrorist’ by India in 2020

Canada is not trying to provoke India by suggesting it was linked to the murder of a Sikh separatist leader, but wants New Delhi to address the issue properly, prime minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.

Mr Trudeau announced on Monday that Canadian intelligence agencies were actively pursuing credible allegations tying New Delhi’s agents to the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar (45), in British Columbia in June.

India quickly dismissed the assertion as absurd and said it was expelling a Canadian diplomat, further worsening already poor diplomatic relations between the two G20 members.

Mr Trudeau told reporters that the case, which has derailed protracted talks on a potential bilateral trade deal, had far-reaching consequences in international law. “The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that, we are not looking to provoke or escalate,” he said.


Canadian officials have so far declined to say what evidence they have potentially linking India to Mr Nijjar’s murder.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a solid grounding in understanding what was going on ... we wanted to make sure we were taking the time to talk with our allies,” Mr Trudeau said when asked why Ottawa had revealed its hand now.

New Delhi, which urged Ottawa to act against anti-Indian elements, has long been unhappy over Sikh separatist activity in Canada.

Mr Nijjar, who was shot dead by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, a city about 30km (18 miles) east of Vancouver, had been designated a “terrorist” by India in July 2020, following his support for a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent state of Khalistan in India’s northern state of Punjab, which borders Pakistan.

Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.

India has been particularly sensitive to Sikh protesters in Canada, with some Indian analysts saying Ottawa does not stop them because Sikhs are a politically influential group

“Allegations of the government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” India’s foreign ministry said on Tuesday. “We urge the government of Canada to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil.”

It said the “unsubstantiated allegations” sought to shift the focus away from “Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada”, it added.

Mr Trudeau said on Monday he had raised the issue of the murder directly with Mr Modi on the sidelines of last week’s G20 summit in New Delhi, and urged his government to co-operate with Canada to resolve it. Mr Modi, in turn, conveyed strong concern to Mr Trudeau over recent demonstrations in Canada by Sikhs calling for an independent state.

The United States and Australia expressed “deep concern” over Canada’s accusations. US authorities have urged India to cooperate with the investigation, a senior State Department official told reporters at a news briefing on Tuesday. – Reuters