September 21, 2023 08:11
India on Wednesday cautioned its citizens, especially students, planning to visit or living in Canada "to exercise utmost caution" after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that India's government may have been involved in the assassination of a Sikh activist on Canadian soil.
"Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda," an Indian foreign ministry statement said. "Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students in particular are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant."
Indian nationals made up around 40 percent of Canada's international student body last year, the most of any country, according to the Canadian Bureau of International Education.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has denied what Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau called "credible allegations" that Indian government agents are linked to the murder of outspoken Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. The relationship between Canada and India has broken down, with both nations having expelled one another's diplomats.
It's unclear what evidence Canadian intelligence officials are investigating, but Indian leaders maintain their government is innocent.
"We do not go around doing these things," A.S. Dulat, a former head of India's international espionage operations, told the Press Trust of India. "We do not go around assassinating people -- let me make this very clear."
New Delhi has pointed to the growth of anti-Indian rhetoric, "politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada." Those claims fall in line with Modi's long-standing accusations that Canada is harboring terrorists who want to turn the Indian state of Punjab into an independent nation called Khalistan.
Prior to his death, Nijjar was wanted in India in connection to extremist killings, though Canada denies that he had ever perpetrated acts of terrorism in either country.
India worries that pro-Khalistani political activity in Canada might spark the movement's second-coming at home. Modi's government has repeatedly urged Canada to crack down on separatists to no avail.
Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside the Indian state of Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.
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