Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday urged India to cooperate in the investigation of the murder of a Sikh separatist leader after it turned into a full-blown diplomatic crisis, Reuters reported.
At a press conference in New York, Trudeau reiterated that Canada had “credible reasons” to believe that the Indian government was linked to the killing of 45-year-old Hardeep Singh Nijjar in suburban Vancouver. India has rejected the charges as “absurd and motivated”.
“We call upon the government of India to take seriously this matter and to work with us to shed full transparency and ensure accountability and justice in this matter,” Trudeau said on Thursday.
The Canadian prime minister acknowledged India was a country of “growing importance” and that his government wanted to continue working with New Delhi. When asked if Ottawa was mulling a retaliatory move against India’s decision to suspend visa services in Canada, Trudeau said his government was not looking to “provoke or cause problems”, PTI reported.
“But we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians,” he added.
Nijjar was a Canadian citizen and a strong supporter of Khalistan, an independent Sikh state sought by some groups.
At the press conference, Trudeau told reporters that the decision to go public with the allegations “was not done lightly”.
However, he did not say anything about the purported evidence linking India to Nijjar’s murder.
Unidentified sources have told CBC News that Canada has gathered intelligence, including communications between Indian officials, about Nijjar’s killing. The CBC report also claimed that “when pressed behind closed doors”, Indian officials have not denied that there is evidence to link New Delhi to the killing.
Separately, an unidentified Canadian government official told a similar version to the Associated Press. Both the news agencies reported that one of the countries in the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance provided inputs to Canada. The alliance includes the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand and Canada.
Sources cited by CBC News and the Associated Press refused to divulge the name of the country that reportedly shared the intelligence.
No ‘special exemption’ can be given, says US
On Thursday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan did not confirm or deny if Washington had evidence to back Canada’s claims.
“As I said before, continuous communication and consultation with the Canadian government,” he said at a press briefing in the White House.
When asked if the allegations could drive a wedge between India and the US, Sullivan said that it was a matter of concern.
“There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this,” he added. “Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles. And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.”