February 22, 2024

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Hardeep Singh Nigar murder: India suspends visa services in Canada as dispute widens

Hardeep Singh Nigar murder: India suspends visa services in Canada as dispute widens

TORONTO (AP) — The allegation of Indian involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a key ally, a Canadian official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The official said the contacts included Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada, and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the United States, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada.

The official did not say which ally provided the intelligence information or provide specific details about what was contained in the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation was the first to report this intelligence.

Earlier Thursday, India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and asked Canada to reduce the number of its diplomatic staff as a rift widened between the two close allies over Ottawa’s allegations that New Delhi may be involved in the killing of a Canadian. Hardeep Singh Nigara 45-year-old Sikh separatist, in a Vancouver suburb in June.

Relations between the two countries have fallen to their lowest levels in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday that there were “credible allegations” of India’s involvement in the assassination.

Tensions have risen between Canada and India with diplomatic expulsions following allegations of Indian government involvement in the killing of a Sikh activist. (September 20)

Al-Najjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, was wanted in India for years before he was shot dead outside the temple he was leading in the city of Surrey.

He speaks Thursday on the sidelines United Nations General AssemblyTrudeau acknowledged the complex diplomatic situation he faces.

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“The decision to share these allegations in the House of Commons was not taken lightly,” he said. “There is no doubt that India is an increasingly important country and one we need to continue to work with.”

“We’re not looking to stir up or cause trouble, but we are unequivocal about the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”

The bombshell claim sparked Mutual internationalWith each country expelling its diplomats. India described these allegations as “ridiculous.”

Canada has yet to provide public evidence to support Trudeau’s claims, and Canada’s ambassador to the United Nations, Bob Rae, has indicated that may not come soon.

“These are very early days,” Wray told reporters on Thursday, stressing that although the facts will emerge, they must “emerge in the context of the pursuit of justice.”

“This is what we call the rule of law in Canada,” he said.

On Thursday, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced the suspension of visa services until further notice.

The suspension means that Canadians who do not already have visas cannot travel to India. Canadians are among the top travelers to India: In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to the Indian Immigration Bureau.

Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi blamed the suspension of visas, which include those issued in third countries, on safety issues.

“The security threats facing our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal operations. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications.” He did not provide details about the alleged threats.

This announcement quickly spread throughout Canada, especially among people with ties to India.

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Sukhwinder Dhillon, a 56-year-old grocery store owner in Montreal, said he was planning a trip to India to see his family and sort out his deceased father’s belongings. Dillon, who came to Canada in 1998, said he makes the trip every two or three years, and has lost two immediate family members since he last returned to his home country.

“My father passed away, my brother passed away,” Dillon said. “I want to go now. …Now I don’t know when we will go.

Bagchi, spokesman for the Indian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, also called for reducing the number of Canadian diplomats in India, saying that their number exceeds the number of Indian diplomats in Canada.

The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said on Thursday that its consulates in India are open and continuing to serve its clients. Some of its diplomats have received threats on social media, she said, adding that Canada expects India to provide security for its diplomats and consular staff working there.

Wednesday, India warned its citizens Caution should be exercised when traveling to Canada due to “increasing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate crimes.”

Indian security and intelligence branches have long been active in South Asia and are suspected of involvement in a number of killings in Pakistan. But arranging the murder of a Canadian citizen in Canada, home to nearly two million people of Indian descent, would be unprecedented.

India has criticized Canada for years for unleashing Sikh separatists, including Naggar. New Delhi accused him of having links to terrorism, which he denied.

Al-Najjar was a local leader of what remained of the once-powerful Creativity movement Independent Sikh homelandKnown as Khalistan. A bloody Sikh rebellion rocked northern India in the 1970s and 1980s until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders.

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Although the active insurgency ended decades ago, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatists are trying to make a comeback, and has pressed countries such as Canada, where Sikhs make up more than 2% of the population, to do more to stop them.

At the time of his killing, Al-Najjar was working to organize an unofficial referendum for Sikhs in the diaspora on independence from India.

New Delhi’s concerns about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have increased It has long put pressure on the relationshipBut the two countries have maintained strong defense and trade ties and share strategic interests regarding China’s global ambitions.

In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government summoned the Canadian High Commissioner in New Delhi, its most senior diplomat in the country, to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada.

Signs of a broader diplomatic rift emerged at the G20 summit of leading global economies hosted by India earlier this month. Trudeau’s meetings with Modi were frosty, and a few days later Canada canceled a trade mission to India scheduled for the fall. The trade deal between the two countries is now stalled.

India’s National Investigation Agency said on Wednesday that it has intensified its campaign against Sikh rebels operating in India.

It announced rewards of up to one million rupees ($12,000) for anyone who provides information leading to the arrest of five insurgents, one of whom is believed to be stationed in neighboring Pakistan. It accused them of extorting money from companies for a banned Sikh organisation, Babbar Khalsa International, and of targeted killing in India.


Associated Press journalists Ashok Sharma and Krutika Pathi in New Delhi contributed reporting.