Hours later, the Indian government ordered a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within five days, saying the decision reflected growing concern over interference by Canadian diplomats in India’s affairs and their anti-India activities. India summoned Canada’s high commissioner Cameron MacKay to convey its decision to expel the diplomat, identified as Olivier Sylvestere, who headed Canadian intelligence here.
India said Trudeau’s unsubstantiated and absurd allegations were only meant to shift focus from Canada’s support to Khalistan terrorists. The expelled Indian official was identified as Pavan Kumar Rai, a 1997-batch IPS officer handling, as per Indian high commission, economic, coordination and community affairs. Canada’s foreign minister Melanie Joly said he was RAW’s point person.
Having dropped a bombshell a day earlier by alleging an Indian government hand in Nijjar’s killing, Trudeau on Tuesday said Ottawa was not looking to escalate matters even as the US cautiously backed his demand for a probe. “We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them,” Trudeau said, adding, “Indian government needs to take this matter with utmost seriousness. We are doing that.”
Space given in Canada to crimes not new: India
Prior to making allegations about the Indian government’s hand in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Canadian PM Justin Trudeau seemed prepared for an escalation of tensions as he had reportedly briefed US President Joe Biden, UK PM Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron about Canada’s action, and 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 himself with Modi in their meeting on the margins of the G20 summit.
Watch: Canada accuses Indian govt agents of being involved in murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar
On Monday, setting aside protocol, Pavan Kumar Rai’s name was leaked to the media by the country’s foreign ministry. The station chief of spy agencies is typically not identified by name, particularly among friendly nations. But so fraught is the moment and such the precipitous decline in India-Canada ties that Ottawa is publicly unloading on New Delhi on matters that would have normally remained outside public domain.
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 PM Modi had already “completely rejected” these allegations in his meeting with the Canadian PM. Nijjar, a designated terrorist who carried a re ward of Rs 10 lakh, was shot dead outside a gurdwara by unidentified gunmen in Surrey, British Columbia.
“Allegations of government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated. We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to 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.
Who was Hardeep Nijjar, Canadian national and head of Khalistan Tiger Force?
The government 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 orga- nised crime, is not new. We reject any attempts to connect 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 in action 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. In fact, even before Nijjar’s killing, Canadian NSA Jody Thomas threatened to plunge the relationship with India into a deeper abyss by clubbing India with China, Russia and Iran while alleging foreign interference by state actors and non-state proxies.
The decision to expel an Indian diplomat also follows Canada’s decision to seek a “pause” in the negotiations for an ‘early progress trade agreement’, as confirmed by Indian high commissioner Sanjay Verma early this month. Canada didn’t give any reason for suspending the talks.
Trudeau came to India for the G20 summit, upset apparently that Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky was not invited for 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 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.
India rejects Canada’s allegations linking government to murder of pro-Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar
Worked with US on intel: Canada
Canada worked ‘very closely’ with the United States on intelligence that Indian agents had been potentially involved in the murder of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia earlier this year, a senior Canadian government source said on Tuesday.
“We’ve been working with the US very closely, including on the public disclosure yesterday,” the source said. The evidence in Canada’s possession would be shared “in due course”, said the official who did not give a name due to the sensitivity of the information.
Canada warns citizens to avoid travelling to J&K: Issues travel advisory for India amid Khalistan row
‘9 separatist outfits have Canada bases’
At least nine separatist outfits — including World Sikh Organization, Khalistan Tiger Force, Sikhs for Justice, and Babbar Khalsa International working at the behest of Pakistan — have their bases in Canada. Despite multiple deportation requests, Ottawa has taken no action against those involved in heinous crimes, officials here said on Tuesday.
The issue of deportations has been raised at multiple meetings but Canadian authorities have remained non-committal and brazen in support of these elements, the officials said.
Here is how Canada’s pro-Khalistani group reacted on President Justin Trudeau’s anti-India move