India issues alert on Canada travel amid Sikh murder row

India urged its citizens to "exercise extreme caution" in Canada amid a diplomatic dispute over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader

Canada suggested that Indian agents might be tied to the killing, angering Delhi (Photo: DW)
Canada suggested that Indian agents might be tied to the killing, angering Delhi (Photo: DW)


India on Wednesday issued an alert to its citizens regarding travel to Canada, amid a diplomatic standoff between New Delhi and Ottawa over the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in the Vancouver metropolitan area.

"In view of growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals there, and those contemplating travel, are urged to exercise utmost caution," India's Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement posted on social media.

Hundreds of thousands of Indians choose to study in Canada. The Indian government called on Indian students in the North American country "to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant," citing what it called Canada's "deteriorating security environment."

Canada probes 'credible accusations' as Sikhs call for justice

Tensions between India and Canada skyrocketed on Monday after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was probing "credible allegations" tying Indian agents to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Trudeau also announced that Canada would expel an Indian diplomat over the controversy.

Nijjar, an Indian-born figurehead in the separatist Khalistan movement who holds Canadian citizenship, was killed by masked gunmen in British Colombia in June. The act, which occurred outside of a Sikh religious center, stirred outrage among members of that religious minority in Canada.

"We are happy to see India being held accountable," Harkit Singh Dhadda, an attorney in the greater Toronto area and a prominent voice in the city's Sikh community told AFP news agency.

"We want a full investigation that brings to justice the people involved in this assassination, including those who pullled the trigger and the ones who plotted this assassination," he added.

Canada has not yet provided concrete evidence that India was behind Nijjar's killing. A source told Reuters news agency that Canada cooperated "very closely" with the US on intelligence connecting India to Nijjar's murder.

As Trudeau faces a tough election battle in 2025, his top opponent, Conservative Party Leader Pierre Poilievre, urged the government Tuesday to "come clean" on information regarding India's role in the murder.

India calls Canada's claims 'absurd'

India has rebuked the "absurd" notion that it had anything to do Nijjar's killing. After Trudeau's accusations this week, New Delhi said on Tuesday it handed a Canadian diplomat a five-day notice to leave India.

Indian authorities formally listed Nijjar a terrorist in 2020, a label which he has rejected. In the 1970s and 1980s, members of the Khalistan movement waged a insurgency in the northern Indian state of Punjab, leading to a bloody conflict with the Indian government.

India's Hindu nationalist government has accused Canada of being soft on Sikh separatism. The opposition Indian National Congress Party has backed Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government in its firm stance on the matter.

A senior Congress legislator, Abhishek Manu Singhvi, has called Trudeau's defense of Nijjar "shameful" and said the "Canadian regime is in bed with Khalistani sympathizers."

The debacle over Nijjar's killing has caused Canada-India relations to sink to their lowest level in years. It's a reversal from 2018, when Trudeau visited India for a week, with the prime minister ostentatiously showing off Indian attire.

Sikhism is the fourth most prevalent religion in India, after Hinduism, Islam and Christianity in that order, according to the country's last census in 2011. Just under 2% of the population were registered as Sikh in that study. The Khalistan movement seeks to establish a Sikh homeland on northern Indian or Pakistani territory, with various suggestions on precisely where or how large it ought be.

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Published: 21 Sep 2023, 8:39 AM