When Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of being behind the killing of a Canadian Sikh activist near Vancouver in September, there was fierce denial, skepticism and muted support.
India has vehemently denied the allegations and forced out 41 Canadian diplomats. Canada’s allies, including the United States, have said little, worried about offending an increasingly important counterweight to China and Russia.
Canada’s opposition leader also called on Trudeau to “come clean” with the evidence behind the allegations.
But Canada’s case against India and Trudeau’s lone stance were strengthened Wednesday after federal prosecutors in Manhattan revealed details of what they said was a separate plot in the United States, with links to the murder in Canada.
“The news coming out of the United States further underlines what we have been talking about all along, that India needs to take this seriously, that the Indian government needs to work with us to ensure that we are getting there.” at the bottom of all this,” Trudeau told reporters Wednesday.
An Indian national has been charged in a murder plot organized by an Indian government official who was also involved in the June killing of Canadian Sikh separatist near Vancouver, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to a federal indictment filed Wednesday in Manhattan. .
In the New York case, according to the indictment, Indian citizen Nikhil Gupta attempted to unsuccessfully arrange the killing of a prominent Sikh American separatist in New York on the orders of the Indian government official.
Both Nijjar and the New York leader – identified as Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the general counsel of the New York-based group Sikhs for Justice – were well known in the Sikh diaspora as advocates of a Sikh homeland to be carved out of the world. Indian state of Punjab. The Indian government labeled both men as terrorists in 2020.
“The release by the United States of all this new information confirms Canada’s position,” he said Aaron Ettinger, an expert on Canadian foreign policy and U.S.-Canadian relations at Carleton University. “You could hear the righteousness in Trudeau’s voice when he came out to speak.”
In June, Mr. Nijjar, the leader of the Vancouver area’s major Sikh temple, was shot and killed in a violent, professional killing outside the temple. According to witnesses, as Mr. Nijjar was leaving the temple in his pickup truck, a white vehicle blocked him and two hooded men shot Mr. Nijjar with automatic gunfire.
Hours after the killing, according to the indictment filed Wednesday, the Indian government official sent Mr. Gupta “a video clip showing Nijjar’s bloody body slumped in his vehicle.” The next day, Mr. Gupta is heard referring to Mr. Nijjar as “No. 4, No. 3” on a list of assassination targets in Canada and the United States.
Trudeau accused the Indian government of involvement in Nijjar’s murder in Parliament, saying the allegations were based on intelligence, but declining to provide details. India has described the charges as absurd and called Canada a haven for Sikh separatists.
“There were lingering questions about why more evidence wasn’t coming,” he said Sanjay Rupareliapolitical scientist and India expert at Toronto Metropolitan University.
The accusations in the United States, he added, “strengthen Trudeau’s credibility. “In September he made a very unusual and bold move to make these allegations himself, as prime minister, in the House of Commons.”
But if the New York case has strengthened the credibility of Canada and its leader, it has also highlighted the fragility of Canadian foreign policy and its diminished role in the world in the face of the rise of countries like India and China, say experts.
Even as Canada’s relations with India have deteriorated due to Nijjar’s murder, tensions with China have risen due to mounting evidence of the Chinese government’s interference in Canadian politics.
Following the New York allegation, the Indian government said it would form a “high-level” committee “to examine all relevant aspects of the matter.”
The reaction was markedly different from India’s to Trudeau’s accusations, experts said.
“The difference was astonishing,” Mr. Ruparelia said. “In the case of the Canadian allegations, the Indian government has dismissed them as absurd and motivated. India responded by suspending visa services and forcing Canada to withdraw its diplomats from New Delhi. This simply underlines the importance that Washington has to Ottawa.”
The Indian government’s response showed the changing position of a mid-sized Western power like Canada in a world that is being reshaped by other, stronger nations, experts said.
“Compared to the 20th century, Canada’s place in the world has declined considerably,” Ettinger said. “It no longer has the kind of influence that Canadians once imagined Canada to have. Foreign powers clearly see Canada as a secondary consideration.”
Canada also failed to build strong ties with India that could have defused the recent crisis, Ettinger said. Canada, he said, viewed India primarily in economic terms rather than as a key geopolitical ally.
“India, as a postcolonial country, wants its own strategic autonomy,” Ettinger said, “and Canada has really only seen it as an export market. “So we’re really talking past each other.”