India calls arrest of Canadian for murder of Sikh activist 'political coercion'

Canada's investigation into India's alleged involvement in the killing of a Sikh separatist in Vancouver last year amounts to “political coercion”, India's foreign minister says after the arrest of three Indian nationals in connection with the murder.

Canadian police arrested the three men suspected of killing Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Friday and said they were investigating their links, “if any”, to the Indian government. He immigrated to Canada in 1997 and received citizenship 18 years later.

He is wanted by Indian authorities on suspicion of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder, which he denies. On June 18, 2023, he was shot and killed by a masked assailant in the parking lot of the Sikh temple he led in suburban Vancouver.

Nijjar's assassination soured diplomatic relations between Ottawa and New Delhi last year after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” linking Indian intelligence to the crime.

India has rejected the allegations as “absurd”, temporarily suspending the visa process and forcing Canada to significantly reduce its diplomatic presence in the country.

“It is their political will in Canada to blame India,” Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar said on Saturday, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

New Delhi is trying to persuade Ottawa not to grant visas or political legitimacy to Sikh separatist groups, Jaishankar said, because it “causes problems for them.” [Canada]for us and also for our relationship.

He added that Canada “has not shared any evidence with us in some cases, [and] The police are not cooperating with us either.

Jaishankar said India would wait for Canadian police to share information about those arrested, adding that the suspects “appear to be Indians belonging to a gang.”

“We have to wait for the police to tell us,” he said. “But, as I said, one of our concerns that we expressed to them is, you know, that they have allowed organized crime from India, and particularly from Punjab, to operate in Canada. “

Three Indian nationals, all aged in their 20s, were arrested in Edmonton, the Alberta capital, on suspicion of first-degree murder and conspiracy. They are accused of being the attacker, driver and bystander of his murder last June. Canadian police said they were aware that “other people may have played a role” in the killing.

Meanwhile, Trudeau, speaking Saturday at an event in Toronto celebrating Sikh heritage and culture, acknowledged that many Sikhs in Canada “now feel uncomfortable and maybe even afraid” , but he urged them to trust the justice system.

“Let us remain calm and firm in our commitment to the principles of democracy and our justice system,” he said.

Trudeau said the arrests were “significant because Canada is a country that respects the rule of law, with a strong and independent justice system and a fundamental commitment to protecting all of its citizens.”

Nijjar advocated a separate Sikh state, known as Khalistan, carved out of India. In the 1980s, thousands died in a separatist movement suppressed by Indian security forces. The movement has largely died out in India, but in the Sikh diaspora – the largest community of which is in Canada and numbers around 770,000 – it retains the support of a vocal minority.

India has repeatedly warned the governments of Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom that Sikh separatists were trying to return.

In November, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted an Indian national living in the Czech Republic for allegedly planning a similar attack on U.S. soil.

A Washington Post investigation concluded last week that Indian foreign intelligence officials were involved in the plot, but that claim was denied by New Delhi.

Chad Sutton

"Typical zombieaholic. General twitter fanatic. Food fanatic. Gamer. Unapologetic analyst."

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