In an explosive statement that is sure to send Ottawa’s relations with Delhi nose diving but also hurt India’s international standing, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian parliament that his country’s security agencies had “credible” intelligence that the Indian government was behind the June 2023 murder of a proKhalistan leader in British Columbia, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Trudeau’s charge was followed up by an official announcement from foreign minister Melanie Joly that Canada had expelled a senior Indian diplomat. “Over the past number of weeks, 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 told the House of Commons, adding that he raised the issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in “no uncertain terms”.
He asserted that “any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”. Indian diplomat is Pavan Kumar Rai, identified by them as the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada. A 1997 batch Indian Police Service officer, he was posted to Ottawa as minister (eco, coordination, community affairs) in the Indian high commission. At the same time, allegations that Indian security forces and intelligence agents have acted abroad in contravention of international law have been made recently in two high profile cases.
The first concerned the capture and rendition of Sheikha Latifa, daughter of the ruler of Dubai, by Indian Special Forces on the high seas off Goa in March 2018, and the second the attempted abduction of absconder Diamantaire Mehul Choksi in Antigua in May 2021.
CBC News reported that Trudeau had already briefed “the leaders of some of Canada’s closest allies about the case, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and U.S. President Joe Biden.” Relations between India and Canada have been tense over the activities of pro-Khalistian groups in Canada and Ottawa’s perception that New Delhi was interfering in its internal affairs.
The meeting between Trudeau and Modi last week at the G20 was visibly frosty, going by the scowls on display during the photo-op and the divergent statements each side issued. India was urged “to get to the bottom of the matter” also expect it
(India) to reiterate that its position on extra-judicial operations in another country is clearly and unequivocally in line with international law,” It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open, and democratic societies conduct themselves.