In the midst of a widening diplomatic crisis between two important US partners, the US has encouraged India to cooperate with Canada’s probe into the killing of a Sikh leader, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claims was carried out by India’s government.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said it was critical that the inquiry into the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead in a Vancouver neighbourhood in late June, proceed unhindered.
“We’ve been consulting throughout, very closely, with our Canadian colleagues — not just consulting, but coordinating,” Blinken said at a press conference in New York.
“We are extremely concerned about any allegations of transnational repression — it is something we take very seriously.”
On Monday, Justin Trudeau stated that Canada has “credible allegations” that Indian spies were involved in Nijjar’s death. India called the claims “absurd” and accused Canada of harboring Sikh radicals and terrorists seeking to establish a separate Sikh state.
Canada dismissed an Indian diplomat who was allegedly a spy for India’s external intelligence service. India has also fired a Canadian diplomat and suspended visa services for Canadians planning to visit India.
New Delhi has condemned the “deteriorating security environment in Canada” as well as threats against Indian diplomats there.
Justin Trudeau renewed his request on India to take part in the investigation on Friday.
“Canada has shared the credible allegations that I discussed with India on Monday,” he said at a news conference with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, who was in Ottawa.
“We did that some weeks ago. We are here India to work constructively with them, and we hope that they will cooperate with us so that we can get to the bottom of this very serious situation.”
President Joe Biden is in an unenviable position as a result of the diplomatic conflict. In recent years, he has courted Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as part of a bigger Indo-Pacific plan to compete with China.
However, Washington maintains close trading and political relations with its northern neighbour, which is a member of the Group of Seven and a member of the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement, along with Australia, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand.
According to VORNews in Canada, David Cohen, the US ambassador to Canada, revealed that “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” alerted Trudeau about the suspected participation of Indian agents in the death.
“I’ll say it was a matter of shared intelligence data.” There was a lot of discussion about this between Canada and the United States, and I believe that’s as far as I’m comfortable going,” Cohen said in an interview that will air on Sunday.
Blinken would not say whether the United States had exchanged intelligence with Canada. He also declined to go into depth about the US’s negotiations with Canada or its engagement with India on the matter.
For its part, India hinted on Saturday that it would not relent in its campaign against Sikh separatism, declaring that it had confiscated the properties of an alleged Khalistani insurgent.
The National Investigation Agency stated in a statement that the seizure of a house and land owned by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu in Punjab “comes as a big boost to the country’s crackdown on the terror and secessionist network operating from various countries, including Canada.”