Relations between Canada and India have taken a sharp downturn recently, with accusations and counter-accusations flying regarding the murder of prominent Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.
Complex Khalistan Movement: A Flashpoint in Canada-India Tensions
In a recent report published by Yahoo News, in September 21, 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau shocked the world when he accused Indian agents of orchestrating Hardeep Singh Nijjar murder on Canadian soil. Trudeau asserted that Canadian intelligence had gathered “credible” evidence linking the Indian government to this high-profile assassination. However, India’s Foreign Ministry swiftly denied these allegations, dismissing them as “absurd and motivated.” As a result, the diplomatic standoff escalated, leading to the expulsion of diplomats and the suspension of Indian visas for Canadians.
The strained Canada-India relationship is further complicated by the resurgent Khalistan movement driven by Sikh’s leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s murder , which seeks to establish a sovereign Sikh state known as Khalistan. This movement traces its origins back to India’s partition in 1947, where Sikhs, a religious minority, found themselves divided between India and Pakistan. In the state of Punjab, where Sikhs form a majority, the desire for Khalistan has persisted, with Sikhs constituting 58% of the population.
India’s violent response to the separatist movement in the 1980s, culminating in the storming of the Golden Temple and the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, marked a turning point in Sikh-Indian relations. Today, a revived global Sikh diaspora community actively supports the idea of Khalistan, raising concerns about the potential resurgence of violence in India.
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Murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar: A Catalyst in Canada-India Standoff
According to the news reported by The Hill, the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and vocal Khalistan supporter, serves as a focal point in the escalating Canada-India tensions. Nijjar was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia on June 18, sparking international outrage. India had previously labeled Hardeep Singh Nijjar a terrorist, accusing him of involvement in the death of a Hindu priest, charges vehemently denied by Sikh’s leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
At the time of his murder, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was reportedly organizing an unofficial referendum in India regarding the formation of Khalistan. Trudeau’s accusations of Indian involvement in Hardeep Singh Nijjar murder have only added fuel to the fire, intensifying the diplomatic crisis between these two nations.