New Delhi’s ambassador to Ottawa admitted a “lot of dialogue” is going on to restore relations after a diplomatic spat  Sikhs protest for the independence of Khalistan in front of the Indian Consulate in Toronto, Canada, on July 8, 2023. © Geoff Robins / AFP

India was “convicted” of the murder of a Canadian citizen even before the investigation was completed, New Delhi’s ambassador to Ottawa, Sanjay Kumar Verma, has said. These comments come days after New Delhi resumed e-visa services for Canadians amid a diplomatic spat between the two countries.

The envoy, appearing for an interview with CTV News, vehemently denied New Delhi’s involvement in the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June. “It is still an allegation,” Verma pointed out. “We are a country of [the] rule of law, and all the freedoms have been given in the Indian Constitution. They are our pillars; we will not go beyond that,” he underlined.

Verma reiterated that New Delhi would help “if there is anything specific and relevant and communicated to us” while suggesting that India was “convicted” even before Canadian authorities asked to cooperate in the investigation. Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar had earlier claimed that Canada has yet to provide any evidence to support its accusations against India.

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In September, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his government had “credible allegations” linking Nijjar’s death to Indian agents. Nijjar, a leader of the movement for a separate Khalistan state in India’s Punjab region, was designated as a terrorist by New Delhi in 2020.

Trudeau’s accusations created an unprecedented diplomatic row, with both countries expelling top-level diplomats and India halting visa services to Canadian citizens, citing threats to its diplomatic staff. Negotiations on a free trade agreement have also been suspended.

When asked about the current state of affairs between the two countries, the envoy asserted that the “security situation” concerning Indian diplomats in Canada has improved, which prompted India to resume e-visa services in the country last week.

“The relationship is better than it was a couple of months back,” Verma revealed, adding that a “lot of dialogue” is going on between the two governments, and most of it is constructive.

He also opined that in the early days of the spat, “emotions became very high.” “A bit of [the] emotional element will be there when the decisions are taken,” he added.

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India’s primary concern, the diplomat said, is that Canadian soil is being used “to launch attacks on [the] sovereignty and territorial integrity of India.”

His statements came against the backdrop of an incident involving another Indian envoy in the US, which has a large contingent of Khalistan sympathizers. Taranjit Singh Sandhu, India’s ambassador to the US, was mobbed and heckled by a group of suspected Khalistan supporters while on a visit to the Hicksville Gurdwara in Long Island, New York on Sunday.

In the video posted on social media, people can be seen shouting accusations, such as, “You are responsible for Nijjar’s killing. You plotted to kill [Gurpatwant Singh] Pannun.”

Last week, several media outlets reported that US authorities had thwarted a plot to kill a Sikh separatist leader, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who, like Nijjar, is listed as a terrorist by New Delhi. According to a senior official in the administration of US President Joe Biden, quoted by the Financial Times, Washington had warned New Delhi over concerns about its involvement in the case. (RT)