Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau — amid escalating tension with India — has said he is not looking to “provoke” India or “escalate” tension, but wants New Delhi to take the killing of a Sikh separatist with “utmost seriousness”.
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Justin Trudeau had earlier alleged the involvement of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which took place in June. It had raised eyebrows and the US had said it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations.
“We are not looking to provoke or escalate,” Justin Trudeau told reporters today. “We want to work with the government of India to lay everything clear and to ensure there are proper processes.”
On Monday, in a speech to the House of Commons, Justin Trudeau said the Canadian security agencies have been “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”.
India has rejected Mr Trudeau’s claims. “Allegations of the Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated,” the foreign ministry has said. “Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected,” it said.
The matter escalated and over the last two days, Canada and India each expelled a senior diplomat of the other country. Yesterday, the un-named Canadian diplomat was asked to leave India within five days.
The escalation comes shortly after the issue was discussed between Mr Trudeau and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the recently held G20 in India.
At the time, the foreign ministry said PM Modi had conveyed that extremist elements in Canada are “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats… threatening the Indian community and their places of worship”.
Canada will always “defend freedom of expression… conscience and peaceful protest,” Mr Trudeau had said. But it will also prevent violence and push back against hatred, he had told reporters.
Canada has been one of the favoured hubs of expat Sikhs, where extremism has mushroomed along the margins and made headlines over the last few months, hitting bilateral ties. Trade talks with Canada have been derailed.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force and one of India’s most-wanted terrorists, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen on June 18. He was killed outside a gurdwara in Surrey in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.