India-Canada relations: Allegations of Indian Involvement in the Killing of a Sikh Activist
East and South Asia Human Rights Researcher
Global Human Rights Defence
In recent times, the international community has been witness to an escalating diplomatic dispute between Canada and India, centered around the grave allegations of Indian involvement in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh activist on Canadian soil (NPR, 19 September 2023).
The incident in question transpired on June 18, where Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a prominent advocate for Sikh independence, was tragically gunned down in Surrey, British Columbia. Notably, Mr. Nijjar had been designated as a terrorist by the Indian government and was wanted for his alleged involvement in an attack on a Hindu priest in India. Furthermore, he was actively organizing an unofficial referendum on Sikh independence from India at the time of his demise (NPR, 19 September 2023). This context underscores the contentious nature of the situation, dating back to the 1980s when India began grappling with the Khalistan movement, seeking an independent Sikh homeland (NPR, 19 September 2023).
These allegations have provoked a bilateral dispute involving the expulsion of senior diplomats by both countries. Canada, under the leadership of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accused India of interference in its internal affairs and violation of its sovereignty (NPR, 19 September 2023). Conversely, India vehemently rejected these allegations, dismissing them as absurd and motivated (NPR, 19 September 2023).
A crucial aspect of this dispute revolves around the assertion that India's involvement in the killing may constitute a breach of international law, primarily related to the sovereignty of a foreign nation (Marko Milanovic, 19 September 2023). Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau has emphasized this dimension but intriguingly refrains from explicitly mentioning human rights violations in his statements. This omission may be attributed to Canada's historical stance of denying the extraterritorial application of human rights law, thus highlighting the complexities of pursuing human rights claims in this context.
In conclusion, the allegations of Indian involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada have ignited a complex diplomatic dispute with far-reaching legal and political ramifications (NPR, 19 September 2023). The situation underscores the intricate challenges in attributing responsibility, addressing potential breaches of international law, and navigating the terrain of human rights in the realm of extraterritorial actions (Marko Milanovic, 19 September 2023). As international observers continue to monitor this evolving situation, it remains imperative for nations to uphold their commitment to democracy, liberty, and human rights, regardless of geopolitical considerations, to maintain their credibility on the global stage (Syeda Saba Batool, 18 September 2023).
Marko Milanovic. (19 September 2023). Targeted Killings: New Allegations Against India and Ukraine. EJIL. Available at https://www.ejiltalk.org/targeted-killings-new-allegations-against-india-and-ukraine/.
NPR. (19 September 2023). India expels senior Canadian diplomat in tit-for-tat row over Sikh activist's killing. Available at https://www.npr.org/2023/09/18/1200202102/canada-is-investigating-whether-india-is-linked-to-the-slaying-of-a-sikh-activis.
Syeda Saba Batool. (18 September 2023). US-India Relations: Shared Values or Compromised Principles? Available at https://www.geopoliticalmonitor.com/us-india-relations-shared-values-or-compromised-principles/.