Toronto | Canada has expelled an Indian diplomat as it was investigating what Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called "credible allegations" of the involvement of "agents of the Indian government" in the killing of a Sikh extremist leader in Canada's British Columbia province in June.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and one of India's most-wanted terrorists who carried a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh on his head, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen outside a gurdwara in Surrey in the western Canadian province of British Columbia.
"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," Trudeau said Monday in a speech to the House of Commons.
Reacting sharply to Trudeau's allegations, India on Tuesday described them as "absurd" and "motivated".
"Allegations of the Government of India's involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated," the Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement in New Delhi.
"Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected," it said.
"We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law," the MEA said.
Trudeau told the lawmakers that any involvement of a foreign government in killing a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” “It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves,” he said.
"As you would expect, we have been working closely and coordinating with our allies on this very serious matter," he added.
He also disclosed that he had raised with Prime Minister Narendra Modi the issue during their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month.
Trudeau urged the Indian government to "cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter." Meanwhile, Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said that she has ordered the expulsion of "a senior Indian diplomat." The Canadian foreign minister's office identified the Indian diplomat as Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of India's foreign intelligence agency in Canada, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
"My expectations are clear. I expect India to fully collaborate with us and get to the bottom of this," Joly said.
Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said the RCMP is leading the murder investigation.
"We'll hold the perpetrators accountable and bring them to justice," he said.
The Mounties' Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) is responsible for the Nijjar file.
"It's progressing," RCMP Commissioner Mike Duheme told CBC News when asked about the investigation.
Canada-based Nijjar was designated a 'terrorist' by India under the stringent Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act in July 2020 and his property in the country was attached by the National Investigation Agency (NIA) in September 2020.
Interpol Red Corner Notice was also issued against him in 2016. The local police of Surrey had also put Nijjar under house arrest temporarily in 2018 on suspicion of his terror involvement but he was released later.
Canada has a Sikh population of more than 770,000 (about 2 per cent of its total population).
Bilateral ties between India and Canada have been tense in recent months. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled trade talks.
Last week, a senior official said in New Delhi that negotiations for a free trade agreement between India and Canada will resume after the resolution of political issues between the two countries.
"There were certain political developments in Canada on which India has raised its objections. India has shown a strong resentment against certain political developments in Canada, and therefore, for the time being, till these political issues are settled, we have paused the negotiations," the official said in New Delhi