India-Canada ties hit a new low on Tuesday, with both countries expelling a senior diplomat each after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged the involvement of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of a prominent Sikh separatist leader in Surrey in June, claims outrightly rejected by New Delhi as “absurd” and “motivated”.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and one of India’s most-wanted terrorists who carried a cash reward of ₹10 lakh on his head, was shot dead by two unidentified gunmen outside a gurdwara in Surrey in the western Canadian province of British Columbia on June 18.
The Canadian foreign minister’s office identified the expelled Indian diplomat as Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of India’s foreign intelligence agency in Canada, the Toronto Star newspaper reported.
Who is Pavan Kumar Rai?
Canada expelled a “top Indian diplomat” Monday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau dropped a major allegation that agents of the Indian government were tied to the June murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia.
The diplomat in question is Pavan Kumar Rai, according to the office of Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly. He was posted to the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, and Joly had told reporters in Ottawa on Monday that the expulsion was “as a consequence” of the intelligence.
According to the Indian Express, a daily newspaper, Rai was posted as the top cop in Punjab’s Tarn Taran district, which borders Pakistan, in 2009 and 2010. The district became known for the cross-border drug trade that led to a drug use epidemic in Punjab.
The Free Press Journal, an English daily based in Mumbai, reported that Rai, 53, went on to develop a “close professional relationship” with Samant Kumar Goel, the former chief of India’s spy agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW).
Rai’s association with Goel, who was also from the Punjab cadre of the Indian Police Service, and his experience and expertise were reportedly key in getting him appointed to the agency.
In 2018, India’s Ministry of External Affairs announced Rai’s appointment to the ministry position and he was soon moved to Ottawa, to work in the Indian High Commission.