- Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau accuses Indian agents of involvement in the June assassination of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, triggering a diplomatic row that includes the expulsion of a Canadian diplomat by India.
- The high-stakes allegation has immediate repercussions on bilateral trade relations, halting ongoing talks and postponing a significant trade mission scheduled for next month. Both countries have now announced the freezing of trade discussions.
- The U.S. and Australia express “deep concern” over the allegations, urging India to cooperate with the ongoing investigation, while religious and civil rights groups in Canada call for swift action to protect the Sikh community and investigate the killing.
WASHINGTON D.C.—In a dramatic turn that could redraw the diplomatic relationships among G20 nations, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated on Monday that Canadian intelligence agencies are actively pursuing allegations that link Indian agents to the June assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh separatist leader, in British Columbia.
“It is not our intent to provoke or escalate,” Trudeau told reporters on Tuesday, defending his administration’s decision to go public with the claims. “We expect the government of India to take this matter with the utmost seriousness, as are we.” India swiftly responded, labeling the allegations as ‘absurd’ and expelling a Canadian diplomat.
Canada Under Pressure to Disclose Evidence
In the face of India’s vehement denial, Trudeau faces mounting pressure from the Conservative opposition to disclose the evidence supporting Canada’s accusations. “The prime minister hasn’t provided any facts. We need to see the evidence that led him to his conclusions,” Conservative Party leader Pierre Poilievre insisted.
Impact on Trade Relations
The claims have already reverberated in the realms of trade, effectively grinding to a halt ongoing discussions about a potential bilateral trade agreement between Canada and India. Sources, speaking under conditions of anonymity, told reporters that Canada’s decision to pause trade talks on September 1 and postpone a significant trade mission scheduled for next month were directly related to concerns stemming from Nijjar’s murder.
A Fractious History of Separatism
Nijjar had been a vocal advocate for creating a Sikh homeland, Khalistan, in India’s northern state of Punjab—moves that led India to designate him as a “terrorist” in 2020. Canada, home to the largest Sikh population outside of Punjab, has long been a point of contention for New Delhi, which has accused Ottawa of failing to act against anti-Indian elements within its borders.
Domestic and International Reactions
The gravity of Trudeau’s statement was not lost on domestic religious and civil rights groups. “To see a Canadian attacked on Canadian soil by a foreign country—we can’t understate how shocking that news is,” said Mukhbir Singh, a board member of the World Sikh Organization of Canada.
Meanwhile, the U.S. and Australia have expressed “deep concern” about the situation, with a senior State Department official urging India to cooperate fully with the ongoing investigation.
Trade Under a Cloud
Canada and India’s bilateral trade has long been below potential, amounting to only C$13.7 billion ($10.2 billion) in 2022—a fraction of Canada’s total trade volume. Both countries have now announced the freezing of trade talks, even as Britain confirmed that it would continue its own trade discussions with India, despite the escalating diplomatic tensions.
For now, the international community watches as two key democracies navigate a tenuous situation fraught with geopolitical, legal, and ethical complexities.