Indian Foreign Minister says Canada welcomes criminals after murder charges

The Royal Mounted Police charged three Indian nationals last Friday with the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead last June as he left a temple in Surrey.

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OTTAWA – India’s foreign minister says Canada is his country’s “biggest problem” when it comes to Sikh separatism.

Subrahmanyam Jaishankar also accused Canada of welcoming criminals when asked about his reaction to developments in a homicide case that has aggravated tensions between the two countries.

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The RCMP last Friday charged three Indian nationals in the death of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot and killed last June as he left a temple in Surrey.

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His death sparked a wave of protests and rallies against Indian diplomats in Canada, particularly after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused New Delhi of playing a role in the killing.

Jaishankar says the protests in Canada have gone beyond the limits of free speech and reacted to last week’s arrest by repeating claims that Ottawa allows Indian criminals to immigrate to Canada.

He also accused Canadian politicians of various stripes of giving electoral influence to people who wanted to carve out a Sikh homeland separate from India, called Khalistan.

Jaishankar made the comments on Saturday at an event in the eastern city of Bhubaneswar at a forum of intellectuals.

An aide asked Jaishankar about countries like the United States and Canada wanting to partner with India while allowing people to support a separatist movement there, which New Delhi considers unconstitutional. Another aide asked about last Friday’s arrests and Jaishankar addressed both questions.

“It’s not so much a problem in the United States; “Our biggest problem right now is in Canada,” Jaishankar said, adding that the ruling Liberals, as well as other parties, “have given this kind of extremism, separatism and advocates of violence some legitimacy, in the name of freedom of expression.” expression”.

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From left, Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh and Karanpreet Singh have been charged with the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in 2023. RCMP photos
From left, Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh and Karanpreet Singh have been charged with the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in 2023. RCMP photos

Jaishankar said he had asked External Affairs Minister Melanie Joly about “attacks or threats” on Indian diplomatic missions and staff in Canada.

“I say to the Foreign Minister (Joly): ‘Suppose it happened to you. If it were your diplomat, your embassy, ​​your flag, how would you react? That is why we have to maintain our strong position,” he stated.

Jaishankar reiterated his ministry’s insistence that Ottawa is allowing criminal elements to operate in Canada and affiliate with Sikh separatists.

“Someone may have been arrested; The police may have done some investigation. But the fact is that (a) number of underworld people, (a) number of people with links to organized crime in Punjab, have been welcomed into Canada,” he said.

“These are wanted criminals from India, they have been given visas… and yet they are allowed to live there.”

New Delhi raised the same concern a week before Trudeau announced that India was suspected of involvement in Nijjar’s death last September. In its reading of Trudeau’s meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jaishankar’s ministry had denounced “the nexus of (Khalistan separatism) forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking.” .

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But Ottawa has repeatedly insisted that India has not shown that the people it accuses of terrorism have actually done anything that meets the threshold set by Canada’s Criminal Code.

In February, a senior Canadian foreign service bureaucrat told parliamentarians that Canadian officials had been offering their Indian counterparts “workshops” on the rule of law, because the Indian definition of terrorism “does not always fit our legal system.” .

In his remarks on Saturday, Jaishankar also said that “there will be a reaction” to calls for the separation of Khalistan, but did not specify where that might come from.

“It’s no longer a one-way street,” he said. “There will be a reaction; others will take action or counteract it.”

India’s high commission in Ottawa did not immediately respond when asked whether Jaishankar was referring to the reaction from India or non-state elements.

Joly’s office also did not immediately respond when asked for comment. Joly has previously said that he wants to conduct diplomacy with India privately.

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