Canada Expels Indian Diplomat Amid Probe into Sikh Activist's Assassination
Canada has expelled a top Indian intelligence official amid a furor over allegations that the Indian government was complicit in the shocking assassination of a Sikh activist on Canadian soil. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau informed Parliament that Canadian agencies are investigating credible reports linking India to the recent contract-style killing of separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia.
India vehemently denied the "absurd" accusation, instead accusing Canada of sheltering Sikh extremists seeking an independent homeland who threaten India's sovereignty. But Trudeau doubled down, confronting Indian PM Modi at the G20 summit and stressing any foreign government murder of a Canadian citizen would be an "unacceptable violation."
This extraordinary war of words between the two Commonwealth nations follows months of strained ties over Canada's handling of the banned Khalistani movement supporting Sikh independence. With a large politically active Sikh diaspora, the suspected state-sponsored execution of Nijjar on Canadian soil has erupted into a full-blown diplomatic rift.
Canadian PM: India Must Cooperate in Murder Probe or Face Consequences
Trudeau insisted he demanded Modi's cooperation in investigating Nijjar's killing, considered a grave breach of sovereignty if proven. He said expelling the senior Indian diplomat showed this was not mere rhetoric. Canada's Foreign Minister called the alleged transnational assassination attempt “a great violation” of trust between nations.
But India claimed Trudeau raised "unsubstantiated allegations" to unfairly shift focus from violent Sikh separatists given Canadian sanctuary. Officials alleged Canada enables Khalistani extremists to spew anti-India hatred and threaten national security with impunity. However, the brazen public shooting of Nijjar has put India firmly on the defensive.
Gunned Down After Advocating Sikh Referendum
Nijjar, a prominent pro-Khalistan voice, was shot dead in June outside a Sikh gurdwara shortly after promoting an unofficial independence vote. Indian police had offered a bounty for him over allegedly ordering an attack on a Hindu priest. Canada is probing if rogue Indian agents took matters into their own hands.
The activist had allegedly been warned by Canadian intelligence of an assassination plot before his murder. His lawyer claims Nijjar was targeted by "mercenaries" hired by India. Trudeau has been briefing major allies, underscoring the gravity of the situation. Domestically, the suspected contract killing involving a foreign power has created an uproar.
The Latest Flashpoint in Fraying Canada-India Relations
The Expulsion of the Senior Diplomat is the latest Flashpoint in the Deteriorating ties between Canada and India:
Trudeau's Liberal Party has been accused of being too soft on Khalistani groups
India roiled over Canada's response to farmer protests last year
Ongoing disputes over Sikh separatism have stalled trade negotiations
Indian politicians frequently allege Canada shelters Khalistani extremists
Modi reportedly complained to Trudeau about the matter at the recent G20
Both nations are jockeying for global influence with large diasporas
Against this strained backdrop, the alleged assassination on Canadian territory represents an explosive new low that requires decisive action. Unless credibly resolved, this issue may poison the relationship long-term.
Why the Khalistan Issue Matters
The Separatist Cause Reviving Tensions has a Complex History in the Sikh context:
Khalistan refers to a proposed independent Sikh state in India
The secessionist movement peaked during the Punjab insurgency in the 1980s-90s that killed thousands
India has long seen it as a national security threat to be suppressed
But the concept still enjoys support among some Sikhs, especially in the diaspora
Indian authorities often accuse overseas Sikhs of radicalization and anti-India plots
Canadian Sikhs number over 770,000 and wield political influence
Given past violence, India considers any Khalistan revival a red line. However, crackdowns on moderate pro-Khalistan voices abroad like Nijjar remain controversial.
Fallout and Implications of the Diplomatic Expulsion
Canada's dramatic expulsion of the Indian official has rattled relations:
It represents an escalation showing Canada's willingness to confront India
Sets a precedent other nations may follow if evidence proves strong
Puts pressure on India's global image if links are established
May trigger retaliatory actions like expelling Canadian officials
Further stalls negotiations on a free trade agreement
Raises tricky questions on monitoring expat activism without stifling dissent
Could worsen Indian perceptions that Canada shelters violent extremists
Shows Canada seeks to avoid being perceived as soft against foreign meddling
With national pride at stake for both nations, climbdowns will be difficult unless justice is demonstrably delivered. But renewed engagement may require even tougher conversations on reconciling complex diaspora identities with nation-state interests. Rebuilding trust after this rupturing of diplomatic ties will be no easy task.