Canada finds itself in an awkward position as its allies are seemingly reluctant to blame India for the murder of a separatist leader in the North American country, as tension rises through tit-for-tat moves between Ottawa and New Delhi.
Back on June 18, Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot dead outside the temple he led in British Columbia. The Indian-Canadian separatist was wanted by Indian authorities for years and was designated a terrorist under India's Unlawful Activities (Prevention) Act on the charges of plotting the murder of a Hindu priest in Punjab.
On Monday, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told Parliament that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination of the separatist Sikh, expecting Ottawa’s allies to support him in the allegation against New Delhi.
However, India is being courted by the United States and Canada’s other allies, including the United Kingdom, as a counterweight to China, meaning that the allies are reluctant to side with Ottawa in blaming the Indian government for the murder.
Washington only said it was “deeply concerned” over the killing, encouraging Indian officials to cooperate in any investigation. The UK also refused to publicly criticize New Delhi, saying bilateral trade talks will continue as planned.
Forty-five-year-old Nijjar, who had denied India's accusation that he was a terrorist, was trying to organize an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora on independence from India at the time of his killing.
Canada, which claims that it has intelligence possibly linking Indian government agents to the murder, expelled an Indian diplomat over the killing.
The move prompted New Delhi on Tuesday to order a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country in retaliation, citing “growing concern” over the diplomats’ “interference” in New Delhi’s internal affairs.
India denounced the allegations being investigated in Canada as absurd and an attempt to shift attention from the presence of Nijjar and other wanted suspects in Canada.
Furthermore, India’s visa processing center in Canada said on Wednesday that it had suspended services as a rift widened between the countries after Canada’s leader said India may have been involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen
“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 Sept. Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” the BLS Indian Visa Application Center in Canada said, without giving further details.
Since the 1980s, India has targeted the separatist movement that sought the creation of an independent country for the Sikhs, called Khalistan. Nijjar was involved with the Khalistan movement.