The Indian government Tuesday dismissed allegations of being involved in the assassination of a Sikh leader on Canadian soil and expelled a Canadian diplomat from the country in response a similar move by the Canadian government a day earlier.
The Indian foreign ministry issued a statement on Tuesday rejecting allegations that its “agents” were involved in the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and said the claims were “absurd and motivated.”
New Delhi said Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had made “similar allegations” to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi what had also “completely rejected” them.
The Indian government also announced it was expelling a Canadian diplomat from the country, saying it was concerned about “the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”
Addressing the Parliament on Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the country’s security agencies were pursuing “credible allegations” links between “agents of the government of India” and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Nijjar, a Sikh-Canadian leader who was born in the North Indian state of Punjab, had been designated as a “terrorist” by his country of birth for supporting the formation of an independent Sikh homeland of Khalistan.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said a top Indian diplomat, who she claimed was working for India’s intelligence agency, was expelled from the country as a result of the incident.
In its statement, the Indian foreign ministry wrote: “Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The inaction of the Canadian Government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern. That Canadian political figures have openly expressed sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern.”
Speaking on the matter on Monday, Trudeau said: “Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty…In the strongest possible terms, I continue to urge the government of India to cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter.”
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson on Monday said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the allegations raised by Trudeau and said it hopes that the perpetrators are brought to justice. President Joe Biden has sought closer ties with India, viewing it as a key partner in the Indo Pacific region as a counterbalance against China.