India warned its nationals to be cautious when visiting Canada on Wednesday, as tensions between the two countries intensified in the aftermath of Ottawa’s suspicions that India was involved in the death of a Sikh separatist leader in suburban Vancouver.
Ottawa and New Delhi, two important strategic allies in security and commerce, are embroiled in a diplomatic spat after Canada’s Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, accused India of being involved in the death of a Sikh independence campaigner on Canadian territory in June.
The New Delhi Foreign Ministry issued a new travel advice, advising its citizens, particularly those schooling in the North American country, to exercise caution due to “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes.”
The repercussions resulted in diplomatic expulsions and a vehement denial from India, which declared any accusation that it was involved in the June assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar was “absurd.”
Nijjar was labelled a terrorist by Indian authorities in 2020, accusing him of backing calls for an independent Sikh nation, known as Khalistan, which began as an insurgency in India’s Punjab state in the 1970s and 1980s and was crushed in an Indian government crackdown.
For years, India has claimed that Nijjar, a Canadian citizen born in India, had ties to terrorism, an accusation he has disputed, claiming that at the time of his death, he was organising an unofficial Sikh abroad vote on independence from India.
In an exchange, Canada removed India’s senior intelligence operative, and New Delhi responded by giving a Canadian diplomat five days to depart.
Any cooperation of a foreign government in the death of a Canadian citizen is a “unacceptable violation of our sovereignty,” Trudeau said in an extraordinary address to the House of Commons on Monday.
The identity and position of the Canadian diplomat whom India had requested to leave the country were not disclosed by the foreign ministry.
“The decision reflects the government of India’s growing concern about Canadian diplomats interfering in our internal affairs and their involvement in anti-India activities,” the government said in a statement.