Concerned about national security threats coming from Canada, says Indian envoy after 3 nationals charged with Nijjar's killing

Sanjay Kumar Verma told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that he believes the two countries will come to see the merits of resolving their disputes.
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 04:00 IST
Last Updated : 08 May 2024, 04:00 IST

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India’s high commissioner to Canada says diplomatic talks are underway to find solutions to “issues of concern” to both countries, in his first public remarks since three Indian nationals were charged with the murder of a Sikh activist.

Sanjay Kumar Verma told the Montreal Council on Foreign Relations that he believes the two countries will come to see the merits of resolving their disputes. “My concern is national security threats emanating from the land of Canada. These threats are largely emanating from the Canadian citizens. So these two are my red lines,” he said Tuesday.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau kicked off a diplomatic firestorm last year when he said there were “credible allegations” that Indian agents had orchestrated the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who had been advocating for an independent Sikh state called Khalistan. Nijjar was shot to death in a parking lot in the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, British Columbia, in June.

India dismissed the allegation as “absurd” and expelled dozens of Canadian diplomatic staff. It had designated Nijjar a “terrorist” and maintains that Canada has not taken seriously its concerns about Sikh separatists.

Last week — more than seven months after Trudeau made the allegation in Canada’s House of Commons — police in Edmonton, Alberta, arrested three men accused of carrying out Nijjar’s murder and said officers were actively investigating connections to the Indian government.

The trio, all Indian citizens in their 20s, had a brief appearance in court in Surrey on Tuesday. Protesters waving pro-Khalistan flags and holding signs blaming the Indian government for the murder gathered outside.

The criminal prosecution of the three men remains in its early stages and they have not yet entered a plea. Police have said there are multiple investigations still ongoing and more people may be charged in relation to the murder. One of the accused — Karan Brar, 22 — is being represented by a well-known Canadian lawyer, Richard Fowler.

Verma, in his remarks to the Montreal forum, said Canada and India maintain strong bilateral trade relations, despite the diplomatic dispute. “There are so many positive things which are happening,” he said.

However, he also raised concerns about unethical “educational outlets” — undeserving of the term “college” or “university,” he said — that have been exploiting Indian foreign students in Canada, many of whom come from poor families who sold assets or took on debt to send them to the country, driving some to kill themselves.

“There was a time when we were sending one body bag of an Indian international student every 10 days,” Verma said.

Trudeau’s government has made a series of announcements cracking down on colleges that promise foreign students a pathway to permanent residency in Canada, but in fact provide low-quality education programs. It plans to reduce the number of temporary residents by 20 per cent over three years.

Published 08 May 2024, 04:00 IST

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