In the midst of incessantly souring diplomatic relations between Canada and India over the killing of pro-Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada in June, another Khalistani terrorist Sukhdool Singh has now been killed by unknown gunmen and the incident is expected to further nosedive the relations between two countries even as the top countries are closely watching the turns of the ties.
Sukhdool Singh was regarded as a Khalistani terrorist and he was killed by unknown gunmen in the city of Winnipeg in the Canadian province of Manitoba. As it has become second such incident in the Canadian soil, the experts say that it could escalate the tensions between the two countries and would even advance the friction within the top leaders of the countries.
Sukhdool Singh was also being called as Sukha Duneke. He was a resident of the Moga district in Punjab and it has been reported that he had fled from India to Canada in 2017 by using forged documents. Being a part of the Davinder Bambiha gang, Sukhdool Singh had seven cases registered against him. Moreover, he was on India's wanted list.
On National Investigation Agency's (NIA) most wanted list, Sukhdool Singh was at number 33. According to NIA, Singh was considered very close to Canada-based gangster Arshdeep Dalla, a rival group of the Indian-based gang led by Lawrence Bishnoi. This Bishnoi gang was accused of assassinating Indian rapper and singer Sidhu Moose Wala in Punjab in May 2022.
Sukhdool Singh has been under a manhunt operation and the NIA had been in touch with the Canadian government to secure details about Singh's benami properties in Canada. According to the inputs from the intelligence agencies, Sukhdool Singh was killed in an inter-gang rivalry during the night hours of Wednesday - September 20.
Now, the Lawrence Bishnoi gang has claimed responsibility for the killing of Sukhdool Singh and the claim was made on the gang's social media page. In a post, Lawrence Bishnoi's gang said Sukhdool Singh had played a major role in the killings of gangsters Gurlal Brar and Vicky Middkhera. The murders were planned by Sukhdool Singh even when he was staying abroad. By calling Sukhdool Singh a drug addict, Lawrence Bishnoi gang said he destroyed the lives of many people and that he was ultimately punished for his sins.
India has for a long time been accusing Canada of fostering sympathy toward Sikh activists and their separatist movement, which is been demanding a separate Sikh homeland 'Khalistan' in India by bifurcating the state of Punjab. The Khalistan movement has been active for decades and current events in Canada, which shelters a large Sikh population, have plummeted the ties between two countries and put the already prevailing relations in trade, technology, and education into backseat.
How the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar sparked dramatic turns in the relations?
Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was a prominent face in the Khalistan separatist movement and he was also on the Indian wanted list. He was leading a Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and Nijjar was killed in June near a Sikh gurudwara in Surrey near Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia. While it was reported that Nijjar was killed in inter-gang warfare on June 19, the Canadian government accused the Indian government after the killing of Nijjar, who was a Canadian citizen, in Canadian soil.
Recently, while speaking in the Canadian Parliament, Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made an explosive statement that there were credible allegations that the Indian intelligence was behind the murder of Nijjar. Moments after his statement of directly accusing India, the Canadian foreign minister has announced that an Indian diplomat was expelled from Canada. India quickly reacted to these events and by denying its involvement in the killing of Nijjar, India's Ministry of External Affairs have countered the expulsion of Indian diplomat by asking a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country.
Even as there were heated exchanges, Trudeau's attempt to pull several world leaders including US President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, and Australian Prime Minister Antony Albanese into the matter had also disturbed India. The killing of Nijjar had skewed the diplomatic relations as the Indian government had warned Indians living in Canada to exercise utmost caution by citing that the recent threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of Indian community.
In what has become an another dramatic event, India has on Thursday suspended visa services for Canadians. In a statement, BLS International, which provides visa, passport, and attestation services to the Indian government, said, "Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 September 2023, Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice."