Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was stranded in India for over 36 hours after the G20 Summit concluded due to an aircraft problem. However, a week after his return to Canada, Trudeau has ignited a significant controversy by stating that Canadian security agencies are investigating potential links between India and the murder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India has firmly denied Trudeau's allegations, describing them as "absurd and motivated."
"We have seen and reject the statement of the Canadian Prime Minister in their Parliament," a statement issued by the Minister of External Affairs stated.
On Monday, Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat in response to Trudeau's allegations.In response, Indian government on Tuesday expelled a top Canadian diplomat.
The controversy began when Trudeau, speaking in the Canadian House of Commons, mentioned that Canadian security agencies were examining potential ties between India and the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey on June 18.
"Canada has declared its deep concerns to the top intelligence security officials of the Indian government. Last week, at the G20, I brought them personally and directly to Prime Minister Modi in no uncertain terms," the Canadian Prime Minister said.
Trudeau urged the Indian government to "cooperate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter" and to reiterate its position on "extra-judicial operations" in another country.
In response to Trudeau's allegations, India's Ministry of External Affairs stated, "We've examined and dismissed the claims made by the Canadian Prime Minister and their Foreign Minister. Accusations of India's involvement in violence in Canada have no basis and seem driven by ulterior motives."
The central government said, "Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister and were completely rejected." The MEA statement further said, "We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law."
"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," MEA's statement read.
The statement also said that the Canadian political figures "openly expressing sympathy for such elements remains a matter of deep concern."
"The space given in Canada to a range of illegal activities, including murders, human trafficking, and organized crime, is not new. We reject any attempts to connect the Government of India to such developments," the statement further reads.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the leader of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was shot and killed outside a gurdwara in Surrey in June. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who had moved to Canada in the late 1990s, was designated as a terrorist by India in 2020.
Nijjar played a key role in recruiting and training individuals for the banned terrorist group KTF. He was also associated with the separatist organization Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which organized a Khalistan referendum in 2023.
According to security agencies, Nijjar was actively involved in recruiting and training people for the banned terrorist outfit, KTF. He was also a part of the separatist outfit Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), which held a Khalistan referendum on September 10.
Over the years, India had, several times, communicated its concerns about Nijjar's links to terrorist activities. In 2018, former Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh handed over a list of wanted persons to Justin Trudeau with Nijjar's name included, reported India Today.
Canada expelled a top Indian diplomat soon after Trudeau alleged a potential link between the Indian government and the killing of Nijjar.
Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said the head of Indian intelligence in Canada has been expelled.
"If proven true, this would be a great violation of our sovereignty and of the most basic rule of how countries deal with each other," Joly said. "As a consequence, we have expelled a top Indian diplomat," Joly said, as quoted by AP.
She also said that Justin Trudeau had raised the matter with US President Joe Biden.
The Indian government on Tuesday (September 19) expelled a top Canadian diplomat, hours after Canada expelled an Indian diplomat following Trudeau's allegations.
The government summoned the High Commissioner of Canada and informed about its decision to expel the senior Canadian diplomat based in India.
The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days, reported India Today.
In a meeting on the sidelines of the G20 Summit, PM Modi had expressed his deep concerns to Justin Trudeau about the ongoing "anti-India activities" being carried out by "extremist elements" in Canada.
In Delhi on September 10, Trudeau, in a press conference, said that he and PM Modi had discussed Khalistani extremism and "foreign interference" during their meeting on the sidelines of the summit.
The relationship between Canada and the Khalistan movement, which advocates for an independent Sikh state, has been a source of controversy and diplomatic tension. Here's a timeline of key events and developments in Canada's association with Khalistan:
The Khalistan movement gains prominence in the Indian state of Punjab, leading to violent clashes with Indian security forces.
1984: Operation Blue Star, an Indian military operation against militants inside the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, further escalates tensions.
1985: The Air India Flight 182 bombing, attributed to Khalistani militants, results in the loss of 329 lives, marking one of the deadliest acts of aviation terrorism at the time. Some suspects in the case had connections to Canada.
Early 1990s: Sikh refugees from Punjab migrate to Canada seeking asylum, contributing to the growth of the Sikh community in the country.
2007: The Khalistan flag is raised at a Sikh temple in British Columbia, leading to protests and concerns from the Indian government.
2018: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's visit to India is marked by controversy over his government's alleged mishandling of a convicted Khalistani militant, Jaspal Atwal, attending official events.
2018: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh presents a list of wanted Khalistani militants to Trudeau, including references to their presence in Canada.
2018: Trudeau's cabinet member, Amarjeet Sohi, faces scrutiny over alleged links to Khalistani extremists.
2020: The Indian government designates Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and alleged Khalistani militant, as a terrorist.
June 2023: Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent Khalistani activist, is shot and killed outside a gurdwara in Surrey, Canada.
September 2023: Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau accuses India of potential involvement in Nijjar's killing, sparking a diplomatic dispute between the two countries.
September 2023: Canada expels a high-ranking Indian diplomat.
September 2023: In response, India also expels a Canadian diplomat.
The relationship between Canada and the Khalistan movement continues to be a subject of debate and discussion in both countries and beyond.