Responding to Canadian allegations about the Indian government’s alleged involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Tuesday said that Ottawa was informed that such acts are not the Indian government’s policy.
Nijjar, the chief of the Khalistan Tiger Force, was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey near Vancouver on June 18. The Khalistan Tiger Force has been designated a terrorist outfit in India.
“I’ll share with you very frankly what we told the Canadians,” Jaishankar said. “One, we told the Canadians that this is not the Government of India’s policy. Two, we told the Canadians that look, if you have something specific, if you have something relevant, let us know. We are open to looking at it”.
Jaishankar made the comments in New York at a discussion hosted by think tank Council on Foreign Relations. The comments were made in response to a question posed by former United States Ambassador to India Kenneth Ian Juster about Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations on September 18 that agents of the Indian government were allegedly involved in Nijjar’s murder on Canadian soil.
Last week, New Delhi claimed that Ottawa’s allegations were “absurd and motivated”. The accusation also sparked tit-for-tat retaliation, with each country expelling diplomats. India has also indefinitely suspended visa services in Canada, citing security threats to its officials. The diplomatic spat has added to growing strains in the India-Canada relationship in recent years.
Without specifically naming the Sikh separatist movement, Jaishankar added that Canada has seen a “lot of organised crime relating to secessionist forces” in the last few years. “We have given them a lot of information about organised crime leadership, which operates out of Canada,” Jaishankar said. “There are a large number of extradition requests and terrorist leaders who have been identified.”
New Delhi has previously asked Ottawa to take legal action against “anti-Indian elements” operating from its soil.
Responding to another question by a CNN reporter about intelligence related to Nijjar’s murder reportedly having been shared among the Five Eyes and the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation having warned American Sikhs of life threat after Nijjar’s killing in Canada, Jaishankar said, “I’m not part of the Five Eyes, I’m certainly not part of the FBI”. “So I think you’re asking the wrong person,” Jaishankar added.
Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing network comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.
On Tuesday, The Guardian reported that at least three American Sikhs were warned by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States’ domestic intelligence and law enforcement agency, that their lives were in danger in the aftermath of Nijjar’s killing. The Intercept had similarly reported about the agency warning Sikhs in the United States about death threats after Nijjar’s killing.
‘High level of military tension between India, China’
Meanwhile, responding to a question about the state of the India-China relations, Jaishankar said that the world’s two most populous nations remained locked in a “high level of military tensions”.
“It’s very hard to try to be normal with a country which has broken agreements and which has done what it has done,” Jaishankar said. “If you look at the last three years, it’s a very abnormal state. The contacts have been disrupted. Visits are not taking place. We have, of course, this high level of military tension.”
Jaishankar was referring to the ongoing military standoff between the Indian military and the Chinese People’s Liberation Army along the Line of Actual Control in eastern Ladakh that began in 2020.
“At various points of time the Chinese have given us different explanations, none of them is really tenable,” Jaishankar said. “We have been trying to disengage because both of us have a forward deployment ahead of our regular bases. We have been partially successful. We have been able to resolve seven to eight of these 10 places of forward deployments. There are still some we are discussing.”
Jaishankar added, “But the basic problem is that a very large number of troops amassed on the border, in violation of agreements, continues.”