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India expels 41 Canadian diplomats amid ongoing Ottawa-Delhi row

Protesters wave flags in support of the Khalistan movement and call for the shutdown of the Indian High Commission during a demonstration in Toronto, Canada on Sept. 25, 2023. (Photo by Reuters)

India has ordered Canada to remove 41 of its 62 diplomats from the country, ramping up a confrontation over accusations of New Delhi's involvement in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in suburban Vancouver.

Media reports on Tuesday cited an official, who was familiar with the matter but spoke on condition of anonymity, as confirming the expulsion of Canadian diplomats by India.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs declined to comment on the matter.

However, the Indian ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi had previously called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, saying they outnumbered India’s staffing in Canada.

The row started after Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last month that there were “credible allegations” of Delhi's involvement in the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Indian-Canadian Sikh leader who was killed by masked gunmen in June in Surrey, British Columbia.

New Delhi, for its part, denies any involvement in Najjar's death and instead accuses Canada of harboring terrorists in the country.

In the meantime, Trudeau, on Tuesday, confirmed that the row between the two countries continued; however, he insisted that Ottawa wanted to maintain its diplomatic relations with Dehli despite the present challenging difficulties between the two countries.

“Obviously, we are going through an extremely challenging time with India right now, but that’s why it is so important for us to have diplomats on the ground working with the Indian government and there to support Canadians and Canadian families,” Trudeau said. “We’re taking this extremely seriously, but we’re going to continue to engage responsibly and constructively with the Indian government.”

In tune with Trudeau, Canada's Foreign Minister Melanie Joly said she had kept in touch with Indian officials in private. "We will continue to engage privately because we think that diplomatic conversations are best when they remain private."

Killing of Nijjar

Nijjar, the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was killed on the evening of June 18th as he was sitting in a parked vehicle outside a gurudwara (Sikh temple) in Surrey.

Two masked men shot him there and then fled running away.

Najjar was a wanted terrorist in India who had a million Indian Rupees bounty on his head.

Delhi, however, denies any involvement in the shooting, calling the accusations leveled against India as “absurd” and “baseless”.

The Khalistan movement is a Sikh separatist movement that seeks to create a sovereign state for Sikhs in the Punjab region shared by India and Pakistan.

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