Wednesday, February 21, 2024

India asks Canada for information on murder of Sikh separatist

(BBC News) India is open to looking into any “specific” information Canada provides on the killing of a Sikh separatist leader, the country’s foreign minister said.

S Jaishankar was referring to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June.

Tensions flared up after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said it was investigating “credible allegations” linking the Indian state with the murder.

India dismissed the claim as “absurd”.

Jaishankar said that the Indian government had told Canada that it was open to investigating any “relevant” allegations about the murder while insisting that Delhi had no role in it.

“One, we told the Canadians that this (extrajudicial killings) is not the government of India’s policy,” he said. “Two, we told the Canadians saying that, look, if you have something specific, if you have something relevant, you know, let us know – we are open to looking at it.”

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead outside a temple in the Canadian province of British Columbia in June. He had been designated a terrorist by India in 2020 – an allegation his supporters vehemently deny.

The Indian government has often reacted sharply to demands by Sikh separatists in western countries for Khalistan, or a separate Sikh homeland.

The Khalistan movement peaked in India in the 1980s with a violent insurgency centred in Sikh-majority Punjab state.

It was quelled by force and has little resonance in India now, but is still popular among some in the Sikh diaspora in countries such as Canada, Australia, and the UK.

Meanwhile, the minister added that India had given Canada “a lot of information about organized crime and leadership” relating to secessionist forces operating out of the country.

“The picture is not complete without the context,” he said. “You also have to appreciate that in the last few years, Canada actually has seen a lot of organized crime relating to the secessionist forces, organized-crime violence, extremism – they are all very deeply mixed up.”

“There are a large number of extradition requests. There are terrorist leaders who have been identified,” Jaishankar said.

The row burst into the open earlier this month after Trudeau said Canada’s intelligence agencies were investigating whether “agents of the government of India” were involved in Nijjar’s murder.

Following Canada’s allegation, India had issued a sharp statement saying that it had “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” who India accused of “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats.”

Both countries have since expelled a diplomat of the other nation. Last Thursday, India also suspended visa services for Canadians citing security concerns at its diplomatic missions in the country.

On Tuesday, Jaishankar was also asked about the “intelligence” shared among the Five Eyes, an intelligence-sharing network that includes the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand – relating to Nijjar’s murder.

A U.S. diplomat in Canada had last week confirmed that “there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made.”

Jaishankar said, “I’m not part of The Five Eyes, I’m certainly not part of the FBI. So I think you’re asking the wrong person.”

The U.S., meanwhile, said it backed “a full and fair investigation” into Canada’s allegations.

“Canada has said it is committed to doing that, and we believe the Indian government should co-operate with it,” U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said during a press conference on Tuesday.

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