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A diplomatic dispute arose between India and Canada on Tuesday when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau suggested a potential connection between the Indian government and the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada earlier this year. This led to the expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat from Canada. In response, India expelled a senior Canadian diplomat from Delhi, rejecting the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated”.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 46, the head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, Canada, was shot by two unidentified men outside the gurdwara in June. Nijjar was the chief of the separatist organization Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF). The NIA had announced a reward of Rs 10 lakh for information leading to his arrest.

“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar,” Trudeau said in a speech in the House of Commons on Monday. He also raised the issue with other world leaders at the G20 summit.

Canada expressed its concerns about Nijjar’s death to high-level security and intelligence agencies in India and also to the US President and UK Prime Minister. Canadian Foreign Minister Melanie Joly ordered the expulsion of a senior Indian diplomat, and in retaliation, India summoned the Canadian High Commissioner to India and informed him of the decision to expel a senior Canadian diplomat.

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the decision reflects the Centre’s growing concern over the interference of Canadian diplomats in India’s internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities. It also rejected Trudeau’s remarks and urged the Canadian government to take prompt and effective legal action against all anti-India elements operating from their soil.

Trudeau later said he was not looking to provoke India or escalate tensions, but urged New Delhi to take Nijjar’s killing with the utmost seriousness. The strained India-Canada ties have led to a pause in negotiations on a bilateral free trade agreement.

The MEA had expressed strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada following a meeting between Modi and Trudeau on the sidelines of the G20 Summit. Trudeau had responded by defending freedom of expression and peaceful protest, while emphasizing the actions of a few do not represent the entire community or Canada.

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