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India on Wednesday warned its citizens to “exercise utmost caution” if travelling to Canada, amid a crisis in bilateral relations over the killing in June of a Canadian Sikh.
India’s warning, which it said was prompted by Canada’s “deteriorating security environment”, came after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Monday there were credible allegations that Indian agents were involved in the murder of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
The US ambassador to India said on Wednesday that the allegations were “troubling”, but also described New Delhi as a “dear friend” and warned against leaping to any judgment on Nijjar’s death.
India’s government has rejected as absurd Canada’s allegations of its possible involvement in the killing of Nijjar, a campaigner for the creation of an independent Sikh state who had been designated as a terrorist by New Delhi.
“In view of growing anti-India activities and politically-condoned hate crimes and criminal violence in Canada, all Indian nationals, there and contemplating travel, are urged to exercise utmost caution,” said India’s ministry of external affairs.
“Recently, threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” the ministry’s advisory continued. “Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents.”
The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi has accused Canada of tolerating “anti-India activities” by extremist exiles. Indian officials have cited incidents including demonstrations held at diplomatic offices in Canada and images of a poster circulated online that read “Kill India” and showed photographs of two Indian diplomats.
New Delhi’s warning appeared to be a response to updated travel advice for India issued by Canada on Monday, in which Ottawa called for “a high degree of caution” because of what it described as the “threat of terrorist attacks throughout the country”.
Canada on Monday expelled a senior Indian diplomat based in Ottawa, and India responded by expelling a Canadian diplomat from its high commission in New Delhi.
On Wednesday Eric Garcetti, the US ambassador to India, described India as a “dear friend, partner, ally (and) trading partner”, but also voiced support for the principles of “sovereignty” and “non-interference” as Canada investigates Nijjar’s death.
“Obviously any allegations like this should be troubling to anyone,” Garcetti said at a panel discussion at the Ananta Aspen Centre, an Indian think-tank. “But with an active criminal investigation, I hope that we can make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice and that we can allow the space for that information and that investigation to be heard before anybody leaps to judgment.”
The crisis in Canada’s ties with the world’s most populous democracy has resounded in a country with one of the world’s largest Indian diaspora populations. There are about 700,000 Indian citizens living in Canada and another 1.6mn people of Indian descent, according to India’s high commission in Ottawa.
The dispute has also placed the two countries’ allies in a delicate spot at a time when India is becoming an increasingly valued trading, technology, and military partner for the US and other western democracies seeking to counter China.
Additional reporting by Jyotsna Singh in New Delhi