A senior Canadian government source said on Tuesday that Canada and the United States collaborated “very closely” on information suggesting that Indian operatives may have been involved in the assassination of a Sikh leader in British Columbia earlier this year.
The killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in June, according to credible reports, was being aggressively investigated by domestic security services, according to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s announcement on Monday.
The insider stated, “We’ve been working with the US very closely, including on the public disclosure yesterday”. The person stated that the evidence that Canada is in possession of would be provided “in due course.”
On Tuesday, Trudeau told reporters that the issue had important implications for international law and he asked the Indian government to take the situation seriously and support a thorough investigation by Canada.
India instantly denounced Trudeau’s claim as ludicrous and announced it was expelling a Canadian diplomat in retaliation for Canada’s Monday expulsion of India’s top intelligence official.
The controversy has deepened the already strained diplomatic ties between the two nations, as India is upset about Sikh separatist activity in Canada
“I would expect that normal discussions between the two governments will be difficult while this issue is being resolved,” said Roland Paris, a former foreign policy advisor to Trudeau and a professor of international affairs at the University of Ottawa.
Earlier on Tuesday, US officials declared their support for Canada’s inquiry. “We have been in close contact with our Canadian colleagues about this. We’re quite concerned about the allegations. We think it’s important there is a full and open investigation, and we would urge the Indian Government to cooperate with that investigation,” a senior official of State Department said.
Some are now pleading with Trudeau to present the information that the government is in possession of, including Pierre Poilievre, the head of Canada’s Conservative opposition.
At a Hudson Institute event in Washington, Jesse Singh, the founder and chairman of the community organisation Sikhs of America, claimed that Trudeau had not shown any evidence. “It’s just something that he said is a ‘credible allegation,’ with no proof at all. And I think we’ll have to wait to see if there is any proof there and then I think further decisions can be taken,” Singh added.
Trade negotiations, which have been put on hold due to the dispute, have already taken a hit, as Canada last week cancelled a significant trade trip planned for October. According to a second Canadian source with knowledge of the matter, the halt in trade negotiations and the postponement of the trade delegation were both brought on by worries over the death of the Canadian.
New Delhi has long been dissatisfied with Sikh separatist activities in Canada and has asked the nation to take action against such groups.
Nijjar was in favour of establishing a Sikh homeland as a separate, so-called state of Khalistan in Punjab, an Indian province in the nation’s north that borders Pakistan and is home to the Sikh religion. He was labelled a “terrorist” by India in 2020.