India on Tuesday retaliated to a provocation by Canada, which declared an Indian official posted at the Toronto consulate persona non-grata, by announcing expulsion of the latter’s diplomat posted in Delhi on charges of “interference” in “internal matters” and “involvement in anti-Indian activities”.

Government sources said Oliver Sylvester, Consular, Political and Public Safety at the Canadian High Commission in Delhi was identified for the punitive action because he was “active” and had been allegedly “meeting discreetly” with Khalistanis and their sympathisers. He is from a Canadian intelligence agency and under watch for long, government sources stated.

The diplomatic row between India and Canada started with the Canadian PM claiming that there were “credible allegations” of a “potential link” between Indian government agents and Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killers and that they were probing it. Nijjar, a wanted chief of the separatist organisation Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was shot dead by unidentified persons on the premises of a gurudwara in Canada. He was head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, Canada.

Following the Canadian PM’s allegations, the Indian diplomat suspended by Canada is an intelligence officer from India’s external spy agency, Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW), it has been learnt.

Government sources said India is prepared to give a “befitting diplomatic response” if Canada indulges in more “adventurism”. The vigil on the Canadian consulates, including in Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Delhi, has been increased to monitor their activities.

The relations between the two countries nosedived in 2018 when Justin Tradeau’s visit to India turned out to be a fiasco with the controversy over Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal’s visit to India. The then Canadian National Security Advisor, during internal engagements with top security managers of India, had accused “rogue Indian elements” of spreading the Khalistani movement in their country. Canada then, too, had virtually stopped short of expelling an Indian diplomat, government officials privy to the issue stated.

The bilateral relations subsequently tripped to an all-time low, a rare occurrence in Indian diplomatic history, recalled government officials. The Tradeau’s government’s survival is dependent on political support lent by Jagmeet Singh’s New Democratic Party. Singh is seen by India agencies as a Khalistani leader.