Factbox-Canada: Investigation into India’s role in killing of Sikh separatist further strains relations

(Reuters) – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country’s security agencies were actively investigating credible allegations of a possible link between the Indian government and the killing of Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June.

Trudeau’s comments on Monday marked the latest strain in relations between Ottawa and New Delhi this year.

Canada has the highest Sikh population outside of its home state of Punjab in India, and the country has been the site of numerous protests that have angered India.

Here are some recent examples of problematic relations between the two countries:

September 2023: Canadian Trade Minister Mary Ng postpones a trade mission to India planned for October. Both countries said they had paused trade talks after saying in early 2023 that they wanted to reach an initial trade deal this year.

According to India, the bilateral trade relationship between the two countries is worth $100 billion, including $70 billion in Canadian portfolio investments.

September 2023: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed grave concern to Trudeau about the protests in Canada against India on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi.

While a Sikh uprising was suppressed in India in the 1990s, authorities were wary of a resurgence of agitation, with particular attention on small groups of Sikhs in Canada who support the separatist demand and occasionally stage protests outside Indian embassies.

June 2023: India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar criticizes Canada for allowing a float at a parade depicting the assassination of then-Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her bodyguards in 1984, seen as glorifying violence by Sikh separatists .

Indira Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh bodyguards in 1984 after allowing the storming of the holiest Sikh temple to drive out Sikh separatists demanding an independent homeland called Khalistan. The storming of the temple had angered Sikhs across the world.

March 2023: India summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to express concern over pro-Khalistan protesters in Canada who have breached the security of India’s diplomatic mission and consulates.

Canada is home to an influential Sikh community and Indian leaders say there are some fringe groups there who still sympathize with the cause of an independent Sikh state from India.

Around 30,000 people died in the Sikh uprising in the 1980s and 1990s. Sikh militants were blamed for the bombing of an Air India Boeing 747 flying from Canada to India in 1985, killing all 329 people on board.

In 2018, Trudeau assured India that Canada would not support anyone trying to revive a separatist movement in India, but he has repeatedly said he respects the rights of protesters to freedom of expression and assembly for demonstration purposes.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Copyright 2023 Thomson Reuters.

Brian Ashcraft

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