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India asks its nationals in Canada to exercise caution citing hate crimes

India on Wednesday urged its citizens in Canada to be “extremely cautious” as the diplomatic standoff between the two countries hardened over allegations the Indian government was preparing to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver. The Indian external affairs ministry said in an advisory:

In view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals there and those contemplating travel are urged to exercise utmost caution. Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.

The advisory notes that Indian diplomats and members of the Indian community in Canada who oppose the anti-India programme are particularly at risk.

The advisory was a point of no return in a series of growing diplomatic differences between the two countries over alleged activities of Sikh separatists targeting India in Canada.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement to the Canadian Parliament on Monday that his government is investigating “credible allegations” that could link the Indian government to the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June this year.

India’s government called the statements “absurd” and “motivated”, emphasising that Canada was trying to “divert attention from terrorists and extremists” who are seeking to establish an independent Sikh homeland known as Khalistan.

India says a Sikh separatist movement has established itself in Canada, home to more than 770,000 Sikhs, who make up about 2 per cent of the country’s total population.

Both countries have decided to expel two senior diplomats from their respective states, further inflaming the complex situation.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Canadian citizen of Indian origin, was shot dead by unknown assailants on 18 June in the car park of a Sikh temple in the Surrey suburb of Metro Vancouver. He was on the side of establishing an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan in northern India and was listed as a “terrorist” by India in July 2020. Sikhs have been demanding an independent homeland for decades.

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