Canada expelled a senior Indian diplomat on Monday, saying there was "credible evidence" to suggest that New Delhi was responsible for the assassination of a Sikh leader in western Canada last June.
In a last-minute address after summoning the opposition, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there was "credible evidence that there is a possible link between agents of the Government of India and the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Canadian citizen.
“The involvement of any foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil constitutes an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” he continued.
A few minutes later, Mélanie Joly, his Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced the expulsion of the head of the Indian intelligence agency in Canada (RAW).
“Allegations that a representative of a foreign government may have been involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen here in Canada, on Canadian soil, are not only concerning, but they are completely unacceptable,” said Mélanie Joly .
“Therefore, today we expelled a senior Indian diplomat from Canada,” she added, specifying that “no form of foreign interference” would be tolerated.
An activist for the creation of a Sikh state known as Khalistan, Mr. Nijjar was wanted by the Indian authorities for alleged acts of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder.
Accusations that he denied, according to the World Organization of Sikhs of Canada, a non-profit organization which claims to defend the interests of Canadian Sikhs.
Since this murder and the protests that followed it in Canada, tension has risen between Ottawa and New Delhi. The Indian government accuses Justin Trudeau's government of turning a blind eye to the activities of radical Sikh nationalists who advocate the creation of an independent Sikh state in northern India.
Ottawa recently suspended negotiations for a free trade agreement with India and the Minister of Commerce last week canceled a planned trip to the country in October.
The Canadian government on Monday urged the Indian government to "cooperate to clarify this matter", specifying that Justin Trudeau had raised this subject with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit a few days ago.
This "very serious and well-documented" accusation from Canada, if it proves true, will have "the effect of a bomb across the world", maintains Jocelyn Coulon, researcher in international relations and former advisor to Justin Trudeau.
India would join "the group of nations which assassinate political opponents", like Saudi Arabia in the case of the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, adds the independent researcher.
That India allows itself such an attack also testifies to "Canada's declining weight on the international scene", thinks the expert, highlighting the already existing tensions between Canada and China.
India has often complained about the activity of the Sikh diaspora abroad, particularly in Canada, which according to New Delhi could revive the separatist movement thanks to massive financial aid.
The Indian state of Punjab, which is about 58 percent Sikh and 39 percent Hindu, was rocked by a violent separatist movement in the 1980s and early 1990s, during which thousands found dead.
Today, the movement's most vocal supporters come primarily from the Punjabi diaspora.
The Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, expressed in early September his "deep concerns about the continued anti-Indian activities of extremist elements in Canada" during his meeting with Justin Trudeau, on the occasion of the last G20 gathering in India .
Mr. Trudeau then told the press that he would always defend "freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and the freedom to demonstrate peacefully", while acting against hatred.
Canada is the country with the largest number of Sikhs outside of their home state of Punjab in India.
09/18/2023 23:27:46 - Ottawa (AFP) - © 2023 AFP