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India warns citizens against visiting Canada

21-09-2023

Bureau Report + Agencies

NEW DELHI: India has warned its citizens against visiting parts of Canada, the latest salvo in a diplomatic row over Ottawa’s allegations that New Delhi was involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader this year.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has demanded India treat with “utmost seriousness” the bombshell revelation of its probe into his shooting death.

The fallout prompted tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions and a forceful denial from India, which said any suggestion it played a role in the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar was “absurd”.

Without explicitly referring to the row, India’s foreign ministry on Wednesday said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of “politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.

“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” a ministry statement said.

“Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents.”

Nijjar was shot dead by two masked assailants outside a Sikh place of worship he presided over in Surrey, an outer suburb of Vancouver in British Columbia province.

Nijjar supported creating a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent state of Khalistan in India’s northern state of Punjab, which borders Pakistan. It is the birthplace of the Sikh religion.

India designated him as a “terrorist” in 2020 and sought his arrest for an alleged conspiracy to commit murder. He had denied those charges, according to the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a nonprofit organization that says it defends the interests of Canadian Sikhs.

The Indian government accuses Ottawa of turning a blind eye to the activities of hardline Sikh nationalists who advocate the creation of Khalistan.

Relations between Canada and India have been strained since the assassination of the Sikh leader and the demonstrations that followed in Canada.

Trudeau, who met with Modi on the sidelines of this month’s Group of 20 (G20) summit in New Delhi, on Tuesday said he expected India to properly consider the allegations over Nijjar’s killing.

“India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness,” he said. “We are doing that. We are not looking to provoke or escalate.”

The United States has joined Canada in calling for India to reveal what it knows about the slaying.

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