In tit-for-tat move, India asks Canada diplomat to leave country in 5 days

INDIA, New Delhi : A senior Canadian diplomat has been ordered to leave India within five days, the Indian foreign ministry said, hours after Ottawa expelled an Indian diplomat in an escalating rift over the killing of a Sikh separatist earlier this year.

New Delhi’s decision reflected its “growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities”, the ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The duelling expulsions come as relations between Canada and India are tense. Trade talks have been derailed and Canada just cancelled a trade mission to India that was planned later this year.

Protests by pro-Sikh independence groups in Canada have angered Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government.

Ottawa on Monday said it was “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking Indian government agents to the murder of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a cultural centre in Surrey, British Columbia on June 18.

Nijjar was reportedly organising an unofficial referendum in India for an independent Sikh nation at the time of this death.

India dismissed the Canadian accusation as “absurd and motivated” and urged it to instead take legal action against anti-Indian elements operating from its soil.

Last year, the Indian authorities announced a cash reward for information leading to Nijjar’s arrest, accusing him of involvement in an alleged attack on a Hindu priest in India.

The Sikh independence movement, commonly referred to as the Khalistan movement, is banned in India, where officials see it and affiliated groups as a national security threat. But the movement still has some support in northern India, as well as countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom, which are home to a sizable Sikh diaspora.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the parliament on Monday he brought up Nijjar’s killing with Modi at the Group of 20 (G20) summit in New Delhi last week. He said he told Modi that any Indian government involvement would be unacceptable and that he asked for cooperation in the investigation.

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