Trudeau accuses India of being behind a murder in Canada and opens a diplomatic crisis

Canada India

Diplomatic crisis between Canada and India. The Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, announced this Monday that his intelligence services believe that India is behind the murder of a leader of the Sikh community – a religion – in Canada. The Canadian president’s accusations have outraged India, which has described them as “absurd and motivated”, and have led to the expulsion of diplomats in both countries. 

The murdered Sikh community leader, Singh Nijjar, was shot in June by unknown assailants in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in the town of Surrey, western Canada. Previously, Indian authorities had accused him of terrorism for advocating the creation of an independent country in the Indian state of Punjab for the Sikh minority, which would be called Khalistan.

Trudeau informed Canada’s top political leaders on Monday about the conclusions of Canadian intelligence. During the G-20 summit, held on September 9 and 10, Canada’s leader demanded explanations from his Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. Ottawa “has conveyed its deep concerns to the most senior Indian government and security officials” over the killing of Singh Nijjar. 

Also read: Justin Trudeau expels India’s intelligence chief from his country

“In the strongest possible way, I recommend that the Government of India collaborate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter,” said Trudeau in the Canadian parliament this Monday, describing what happened  as “extremely serious.”

The Indian Foreign Ministry assured that Trudeau’s statements seek to “divert the attention of Khalistani terrorists and extremists” who advocate the creation of an independent country for the Sikh minority. In the 1980s, this separatist movement turned into a violent insurgency that left dozens dead.

Following Trudeau’s accusations, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat from the country, precisely the person responsible for Indian intelligence on Canadian soil. In response, India announced this Tuesday the expulsion from its country of a senior Canadian diplomatic official. He must leave the country in the next few days. From New Delhi there is “growing concern about the interference of Canadian diplomats” in its “internal affairs.” 

The crisis ‘exploded’ this Monday, but there were already signs that the relationship was deteriorating. On September 1, the Trudeau Executive announced the suspension of talks with India for the signing of a free trade agreement, without giving reasons. Canada also canceled a trade mission to India scheduled for next October. Furthermore, at the G-20 summit, Trudeau and Modi did not meet and only spoke in the hallways.

The diplomatic crisis between India and Canada is especially relevant considering that 1.8 million people of Indian origin live on Canadian soil. Of those almost two million, 770,000 are Sikhs. In fact, the leader of the Canadian New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, the fourth largest party, is Sikh.