India to look into ‘specific’ info on Sikh separatist’s killing in Canada

India’s foreign minister says New Delhi is open to looking into ‘relevant’ information Canada provides on Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder.

Sikh Canada
A sign outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara is seen after the killing on its grounds in June 2023 of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada [File: Chris Helgren/Reuters]

India has told Canada it is open to looking into any “specific” or “relevant” information it provides on the killing of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar earlier this year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week said Ottawa had credible intelligence linking Indian agents to the murder, prompting an angry initial reaction from New Delhi, which denies the allegation.

Asked about the allegation at a Council on Foreign Relations event in New York, India’s foreign minister, Subrahmanyam Jaishankar, on Tuesday detailed New Delhi’s response in diplomatic engagements.

“One, we told the Canadians that this 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.”

Flags and signs are seen as demonstrators protest outside India's consulate, a week after Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau raised the prospect of New Delhi's involvement in the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada September 25, 2023. REUTERS/Jennifer Gauthier
Flags and signs seen during a protest outside India’s consulate in Vancouver [File: Jennifer Gauthier/Reuters]

India last week suspended new visas for Canadians and asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country, citing what it called a deteriorating security environment.

India had been “badgering the Canadians” about its claims that organised criminals are based there, a reference to separatists like Nijjar, Jaishankar said, adding that India had made “a large number of extradition requests”.

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

“Our concern is that it’s really been very permissive because of political reasons,” he added.

“We have a situation where actually our diplomats are threatened, our consulates have been attacked and often comments are made [that are] interference in our politics,” he said.

Canada is home to some 770,000 Sikhs, or about two percent of the country’s population, with a vocal group voicing support for creating a separate state of Khalistan.INTERACTIVE - Sikhs in India

Allies of Canada, including the United States, have cautiously expressed concern over Canada’s claims and urged India to cooperate with Canada’s investigation.

The US ambassador to Canada told Canadian television that some information on the case had been gathered by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

As US President Joe Biden looks to spotlight his foreign policy chops with his 2024 re-election bid heating up, he is facing a growing list of national security headaches, including the diplomatic spat between Canada and India over the killing of the Sikh activist on Canadian soil.

Some legislators in the US from the opposition Democrats have expressed concern over Nijjar’s killing and demanded the US administration should support the Canadian investigation.

“We are also requesting a briefing on whether there are similar operations in the United States,” Congresswoman Ilhan Omar said in a post on X on Tuesday.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies