A handout photo made available by the Indian Press Information Bureau (PIB) shows Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) welcoming Canadian Prime Minsiter Justin Trudeau upon his arrival at the Mahatma Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat, New Delhi, India, 10 September 2023. EFE-EPA/INDIA PRESS INFORMATION BUREAU HANDOUT EDITORIAL USE ONLY/NO SALES

India urges it citizens to exercise caution in Canada as diplomatic standoff deepens

New Delhi, Sep 20 (EFE).- India asked its citizens in Canada to exercise “utmost caution” on Wednesday, ramping up an ongoing diplomatic standoff between the two countries over allegations that the Indian government plotted the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Vancouver.

“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,” the Indian external affairs ministry said in an advisory.

“Given the deteriorating security environment in Canada, Indian students are advised to exercise extreme caution and remain vigilant.”

The advisory specifically noted that Indian diplomats and segments of the Indian community in Canada who oppose the anti-India agenda have been particularly targeted by threats.

The advisory is the latest in the growing diplomatic discord between the two countries over alleged Sikh separatist activities targeting India in Canada.

On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the Canadian parliament that his government was investigating “credible allegations” that could link the Indian government to the killing of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June.

India dismissed the claims as “absurd” and “motivated,” accusing the Canadian government of attempting to “shift the focus from terrorists and extremists” who seek an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan.

The Indian government contends that the Sikh separatist movement has gained a foothold in Canada, home to over 770,000 Sikhs, comprising approximately 2 percent of the total population.

Both countries expelled two senior diplomats from their respective nations, further straining their fragile relations.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Canadian citizen of Indian origin, was fatally shot by unidentified assailants in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in the Metro Vancouver suburb of Surrey on June 18.

Nijjar was an advocate for an independent Sikh state known as Khalistan in northern India and had been designated as a “terrorist” by India in July 2020.

Sikhs, who constitute the majority in India’s Punjab but comprise only about 1.7 percent of the country’s total population, have been demanding an independent homeland for decades.

A violent insurgency claimed tens of thousands of lives in Punjab and neighboring regions until the government quelled it through a military crackdown that resulted in the deaths of several top Sikh leaders.

While the Khalistani movement has largely waned, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatist leaders are regrouping with support from the overseas Sikh diaspora. EFE