Canadian citizen and Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot and assassinated in British Columbia in the middle of June. His rise to prominence in the separatist Khalistan Tiger Force, an organization in India advocating for an independent Sikh state, followed his migration to Canada from India in the mid-1990s.
Since the Sikh leader’s death became public knowledge in recent months, Canada and India have been at odds over who is responsible for what. Canadian ambassadors have lately been expelled by Indian authorities.
India Expels Dozens of Canadian Diplomats
The Financial Times reported on October 3 that India had given Canada a week to pull out 41 of its diplomatic corps. Officials in New Delhi allegedly threatened to strip diplomatic immunity from any envoys who stayed past the October 10 deadline, according to the report’s sources.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau assured reporters that he had no intention of angering Indian authorities or further inflaming the situation. He promised that Washington would “engage responsibly and constructively” with their counterparts in New Delhi.
Before heading into a cabinet meeting, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly met briefly with the press. Diplomats “on the ground” are crucial now as tensions are rising between the two countries, she said.
Joly said the disagreement shows how important it is to have a “strong diplomatic footprint in India.” But she wouldn’t talk on India’s demand that 41 of Canada’s 62 diplomats be recalled.
Both countries have been expelling roughly the same number of people so far. There are more Canadian diplomats in and around New Delhi than there are Indian diplomats in Ottawa. Because of that, India has given permission for 21 diplomats to stay in the country.
How the Feud Between Canada and India Began
On September 18, Trudeau addressed the murder of Nijjar during a statement on the floor of the House of Commons. He informed legislators that they were looking into “credible evidence” that Indian government operatives had a hand in killing the Sikh leader. He promised to “hold the perpetrators of [Nijjar’s] murder to account.”
The next day, Joly verified rumors that a “key” diplomat had been expelled from India. The head of India’s foreign intelligence services in Canada, according to her description.
Naturally, India’s Foreign Ministry was outraged by the deportation and denied that an Indian government agent was involved in Niijar’s killing as claimed by Trudeau. As a swift response, India called in Canada’s High Commissioner in India, Cameron MacKay. MacKay was kicked out of the country by the Department of Foreign Affairs on September 19th.
Since then, tensions between the two nations have persisted.