India has expelled a Canadian diplomat following the death of a prominent Sikh activist.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, died in in June this year after being shot in his truck by two masked gunmen outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia.
It has led to accusations of India being involved in the killing, which Delhi has denied.
“Over the past number of weeks, 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,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in parliament on Monday.
He added his government would take all steps necessary “to hold perpetrators of this murder to account”.
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Canada’s foreign affairs minister Mélanie Joly said: “Today we’re acting by expelling a key diplomat, but we will get to the bottom of this.”
India has responded in kind to the expulsion, ordering a Canadian diplomat to leave the country.
India’s foreign ministry said in a statement: “The concerned diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days.
“The decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”
Nijjar’s death in June sparked ire across Sikh communities in Canada, home to 770,000 individuals belonging to the religion, one of the largest populations outside of India.
He was a supporter of the Khalistan movement, which advocates for the creation of a new homeland for Sikhs in the Punjab region in India and Pakistan.
The Khalistan movement is outlawed in India and considered a threat to national security.
India had previously accused Nijjar of “trying to radicalize Sikh community across the world in favor of creation of ‘Khalistan’”, adding that he had been “trying to incite Sikhs to vote for secession, agitate against the Government of India and carry out violent activities,” according to a report by CNN.
So far, no one has been arrested in connection with the murder of Nijjar. Responding to Trudeau, India’s foreign ministry branded the allegations “unsubstantiated” and a threat to “India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
“We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to rule of law,” a statement released by the country’s foreign ministry said, adding that Canada is harboring “Khalistani terrorists and extremists”.
The White House said it is “deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau”.
A statement continues: “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”
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