India’s foreign affairs minister has accused Canada of creating a “climate of violence” and an “atmosphere of intimidation” against Indian envoys working in Ottawa amid tensions between the nations continuing to spiral over the murder of a Sikh separatist leader.
The comments come as there seem to be no signs of thawing in Indo-Canadian relations after prime minister Justin Trudeau earlier this month accused government agents of India of being involved in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who India had labelled a “terrorist”.
On Friday evening in Washington, Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar came down heavily on Canada even as he said India would be open to looking at evidence.
“Because there is freedom of speech, to make threats and intimidate diplomats, I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Mr Jaishankar said.
Canada has a “permissive attitude towards terrorists, extremists, and people who openly advocate violence”, he said in response to a question at an event in the Hudson Institute.
“They have been given operating space in Canada because of the compulsions of Canadian politics,” he said.
He said Delhi views Canada as a country where “organised crime from India has mixed with trafficking in people, secessionism, violence, terrorism”.
Ottawa has not issued a response to Mr Jaishankar’s remarks, which were made about the presence of Sikh separatist groups abroad that advocate for a separate homeland from India’s Punjab state called Khalistan – something that has not gone down well with New Delhi.
The minister, however, claimed the Narendra Modi administration is not shutting doors on Canada over the recent charges claiming India’s involvement.
“If there is a requirement for us to look at something, we are open to looking at it. But, I then expect somewhere, some pointer, something for me to look at,” he said.
Mr Trudeau, who is yet to publicly share any evidence, said last week he shared the “credible allegations” with India “many weeks ago”.
The issue of the separatist Khalistan movement has been a persistent thorn in the diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Earlier this month, Mr Trudeau sent shockwaves after he alleged Indian agents may have had a role in the June murder of Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India had labelled Nijjar an “independent terrorist” before he was killed.
While New Delhi dismissed the allegations of its involvement in the murder as absurd, reports claimed intelligence was shared between Canada and its Five Eyes allies on the matter and also shared with Indian officers during the G20 summit.
Washington has urged India to cooperate with Canada in the murder probe.
The demand for Khalistan has surfaced many times in India, most prominently during a violent insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s, which had paralyzed Punjab for over a decade.
India has dubbed the Khalistan movement a security threat.