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Diplomatic Crisis: Canada and India at Odds Over Sikh Separatist Leader’s Assassination

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The tensions between Canada and India have reached new heights following the assassination of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada earlier this year.[0] The incident has led to a diplomatic crisis between the two countries, with Canada accusing India of orchestrating the assassination.[1]

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was shot dead by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, British Columbia in June.[2] Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accused agents of the Indian government of being behind the assassination.[0] Trudeau described the allegations as “credible” and stated that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”[3]

India has vehemently denied the allegations and has responded by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat.[1] In a statement, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs expressed concern over the interference of Canadian diplomats in Indian internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.

The tensions between Canada and India are rooted in the long-standing demand for a separate Sikh state called Khalistan in Punjab, India. The Sikh community has called for an independent homeland for decades, but the Indian government considers it treasonous.[4] The movement gained momentum in the late 1970s when Sikh militants began resorting to violence to advance their demands.

Canada is home to the world's largest Sikh population outside of India, with nearly 770,000 Sikh individuals residing in the country.[5] The Sikh community in Canada has accused India of being behind Nijjar's murder and has publicly voiced their support for the creation of Khalistan.[6] Pro-independence groups, such as Sikhs for Justice, have directly accused India's diplomatic staff in Canada and offered rewards for information on the assassination.[6]

The deteriorating relationship between Canada and India is not just limited to the Nijjar assassination. Canada has also expressed concerns over India's role in foreign interference in Canadian democracy. India, on the other hand, has accused Canada of showing tolerance towards individuals and groups deemed extremists and terrorists by the Indian government.

The tensions between the two countries have escalated with the tit-for-tat expulsions of diplomats.[7] Both countries have issued travel advisories cautioning their citizens residing or traveling in the other country. The diplomatic crisis has the potential to derail years of close relations between Canada and India, which have been working towards a free trade deal and have been identified as regional allies.[8]

The assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and the subsequent allegations and expulsions have highlighted the deep-rooted divisions and tensions between the Sikh community and the Indian government.[9] The demand for Khalistan remains a contentious issue, and the assassination has further fueled the ongoing conflict.

As the diplomatic crisis continues, it is essential for both Canada and India to engage in dialogue and find a peaceful resolution to the tensions.[10] The international community, particularly the United States and its allies, should closely monitor the situation and encourage both countries to prioritize diplomacy and de-escalation. It is crucial to address the grievances of the Sikh community and find a way to address their demands within the framework of peace and dialogue.

0. “Murder of Sikh Leader in Canada Highlights Modi's Embrace of Authoritarianism in India & Abroad” Democracy Now!, 20 Sep. 2023, https://www.democracynow.org/2023/9/20/canada_india_hardeep_singh_nijjar_murder

1. “What to know about the tensions between Canada and India over the killing of a Sikh” NPR, 20 Sep. 2023, https://www.npr.org/2023/09/20/1200569975/canada-india-sikh-hardeep-singh-nijjar

2. “Justin Trudeau On Big Charge Against India: Credible Reasons To Believe” NDTV, 22 Sep. 2023, https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/justin-trudeau-repeats-allegations-against-india-gives-no-evidence-4412306

3. “Who was Hardeep Singh Nijjar whose killing triggered India-Canada tensions?” Al Jazeera English, 19 Sep. 2023, https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2023/9/19/india-canada-row-who-was-hardeep-singh-nijjar-what-is-khalistan-movement

4. “Khalistan movement: Sikh activist's killing divides India and Canada – CSMonitor.com” The Christian Science Monitor, 21 Sep. 2023, https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-South-Central/2023/0921/Why-this-Sikh-activist-s-killing-has-divided-India-and-Canada

5. “How Canada-India Relations Crumbled” TIME, 19 Sep. 2023, https://time.com/6315731/canada-india-relationship-trudeau-modi

6. “Canada Blames India for Murder of Sikh Leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar” Foreign Policy, 19 Sep. 2023, https://foreignpolicy.com/2023/09/19/canada-india-trudeau-modi-hardeep-singh-nijjar-assassination-sikh-leader/

7. “If India ordered a murder in Canada, there must be consequences” The Economist, 20 Sep. 2023, https://www.economist.com/leaders/2023/09/20/if-india-ordered-a-murder-in-canada-there-must-be-consequences

8. “Canada: How ties with India soured over Hardeep Singh Nijjar killing” BBC, 19 Sep. 2023, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-india-66851144

9. “Opinion | Can relations between Canada and India be repaired? – The Washington Post” The Washington Post, 21 Sep. 2023, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2023/09/20/canada-india-trudeau-modi-assassination

10. “How the murder of a Sikh leader sparked an international incident between Canada and India” The Hill, 21 Sep. 2023, https://thehill.com/opinion/international/4214935-how-the-murder-of-a-sikh-leader-sparked-an-international-incident-between-canada-and-india

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