United States Ambassador to Canada David Cohen on Saturday confirmed that information shared by members of an intelligence-sharing alliance had informed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of the Indian government’s possible involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in suburban Vancouver, CTV News reported.
“There was shared intelligence among ‘Five Eyes’ partners that helped lead Canada to [make] the statements that the prime minister made,” Cohen told the news network in an interview.
“I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information,” the US envoy added. “There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that’s as far as I’m comfortable going.”
Cohen said that the US takes these allegations very seriously. “And, you know, if they prove to be true, it is a potentially very serious breach of the rules-based international order in which we like to function,” he said.
CTV News said that it will air the full interview with the diplomat on Sunday.
Nijjar was a Canadian citizen and led the Khalistan Tiger Force, which India has designated a terrorist group. The 45-year-old was among India’s most wanted persons. He was killed by masked gunmen on June 18 in Surrey, outside Vancouver.
On Monday, Trudeau told Parliament that Canadian intelligence agencies were actively pursuing “credible allegations” tying Indian agents to the shooting of Nijjar.
India quickly dismissed Trudeau’s claims as “motivated” and asked Canada instead to take legal action against “anti-Indian elements” operating from its soil. It also expelled a Canadian diplomat, in a tit-for-tat move after Canada expelled an official of the Indian foreign intelligence service.
But on Thursday Trudeau doubled down on his allegations, saying that Ottawa had “credible reasons” to believe that New Delhi was behind Nijjar’s assassination. The decision to go public with the allegations, he added, “was not done lightly”.
On Friday, Trudeau claimed that Canada had shared information about the murder of Nijjar with India “many weeks ago”. New Delhi, however, denied the claim.
The state-backed Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has reported that Ottawa had intelligence about the killing that included communications between Indian officials.
Some of it was reportedly supplied by one of the countries in the Five Eyes alliance. The news channel also claimed that “when pressed behind closed doors”, Indian officials did not deny that there was evidence to link New Delhi to the assassination.
A Canadian government official told the Associated Press that allegations of New Delhi’s involvement in the killing is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada and inputs provided by one of the members of the Five Eyes.
The US has asked India to cooperate with investigation into allegations made by Trudeau. “We want to see accountability,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is the most senior official in Washington to have commented on the case so far.
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