India-Canada ties have taken a hit after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s allegations of Indian government agents' “potential link” to Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing. Here’s all we know about the diplomatic war between India and Canada.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Khalistani terrorist, was shot dead in Canada’s Surrey in June. Three months after the incident, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a shocking accusation that agents of the Indian government had a “potential link” to Nijjar’s killing.
On Tuesday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the country's parliament that security agencies are probing “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India” to Nijjar’s killing on Canadian soil. Trudeau added that he had raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a meeting held on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Delhi earlier this month.
India strongly denied Trudeau's claims with the Ministry of External Affairs saying, "Allegations of the Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated.” "Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected," the ministry said.
After Justin Trudeau’s remark in Canada's House of Commons, the country's foreign minister Melanie Joly announced the expulsion of a senior diplomat posted at India's High Commission there. The Canadian foreign ministry identified the diplomat as the “head of India's foreign intelligence agency in Canada”. In a retaliatory move, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat posted in India.
The US, the UK, and Australia expressed concern about the allegations raised by Justin Trudeau, but refrained from making any remarks before the investigation into Nijjar’s killing was complete.
As diplomatic relations between the two nations soured, Canada on Tuesday issued an advisory for its nationals in India. The Canadian government urged its nationals to "observe a high degree of caution". "There are certain safety and security concerns or the situation could change quickly. Be very cautious at all times, monitor local media and follow the instructions of local authorities," it added. The advisory suggested citizens living in India to "think about leaving the country if it is safe to do so".
Hours later, India on Wednesday issued an advisory for its nationals and students living in Canada. The advisory urged them to "exercise utmost caution" in view of “growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and violence in Canada”. The advisory cited threats to "Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda" and advised Indian nations to avoid travelling to regions which have witnessed such incidents.
A day after his initial remark sparked a diplomatic row, Justin Trudeau said that he was not looking to "provoke" India or "escalate" tensions. "We want to work with the government of India to lay everything clear and to ensure there are proper processes,” Justin Trudeau said.
Meanwhile, it was reported that Canada wanted its Five Eye allies to come together and condemn India. The Five Eyes intelligence alliance comprises Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. However, the ally nations were not keen on taking sides in what has now turned into a diplomatic feud between India and Canada. The US, Australia, and the UK have said that the claims should be thoroughly probed.
Amid the diplomatic row between India and Canada, the opposition Congress party said that the country's interests and concerns must be kept paramount and its fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising.
India has long raised concerns over Canada harbouring Khalistani terrorists. In the past, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar warned Canada against giving space to Khalistani elements after threat posters in Canada featured names of Indian diplomats.
Talking about the Khalistani issue, Jaishankar said that Ottawa seemed to be driven by "vote-bank politics", which had impacted bilateral relations.
"How Canada has dealt with the Khalistani issue is a longstanding issue for us, because very frankly, they seem to be driven by vote-bank politics. Their responses have been constrained by what they regard as vote bank compulsions,” he said in May.