Did India assassinate a Canadian in Canada?

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau told parliament yesterday (Monday) there were “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar.”

Nijjar was a prominent Sikh separatist who was shot dead outside a Vancouver-area temple in June. His killing remains unsolved, though Canadian authorities said last month they’d identified a getaway car.

Sikhism is a religious minority making up 58% of the Indian state of Punjab, where a violent Sikh separatist movement erupted in the 1980s. India quashed the movement and has long labelled it a national security threat, but some voices (particularly abroad) still call for a separate Sikh state.

The largest Sikh community outside Punjab is actually in Canada, a fact that’s long shaped India-Canada ties: India accuses Canada of not doing enough to quell Sikh separatism, while Canada accuses India of interference.

It all played out last week at the G20, where Prime Minister Modi reiterated India’s concerns, while Trudeau privately raised the allegation about Nijjar’s assassination. He’s now gone public with the claim, which India has rejected.

Intrigue’s take: It’s worth just repeating the allegation here: that the world’s largest democracy and 2023 G20 host was involved in an extrajudicial and extraterritorial assassination of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.

You’d want to be confident going public with an explosive claim like this. We’ve not seen any evidence yet and, given it’s reportedly intel-sourced, we may never see conclusive evidence.

In the meantime, Trudeau has already briefed his US, UK, and French counterparts, who’ll now be reflecting on their own approach to India: the West has increasingly courted it as a way to balance China, but these allegations, true or not, will bolster those who’ve been urging caution.

Also worth noting:

  • The US and Australia have both said they’re “deeply concerned” by the allegations. The UK has said it’s in “close touch” with Canada.
  • India designated Mr Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.
  • Air India flight 182 from Canada to India blew up off the Irish coast in 1985, killing all 329 people on board. A Sikh man acquitted over the bombing was shot dead in the same Vancouver region last year.
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