New Delhi: While India has dismissed the accusation by Canada of being involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen as “motivated and biased”, the United States and Australia conveyed that they were “deeply concerned”, while Britain said that it was in touch with Ottawa over the “serious allegations”.
All three countries not only have significant Indian diaspora but are also part of the ‘Five Eyes’ intelligence alliance with Canada– although the Wahington Post reported that some of the Five Eyes countries declined Canada’s request to issue a joint statement on the findings of the probe. The US and Australia are also India’s partners of the Quad group of countries which have evolved to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific.
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced in the lower house of parliament on Monday that there were “credible” allegations linking agents of the government of India to the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a pro-Khalistan extremist in June. It also expelled a senior Indian diplomat, who was reportedly the station chief of India’s external intelligence agency in Canada.
India described the allegations that Indian government agents murdered Nijjar in British Columbia in June, “absurd and motivated.”
However, close allies of both India and Canada seem to have taken the matter seriously.
The highest ranked official to react publicly was UK foreign minister James Cleverly. He tweeted, “All countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law. We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners about serious allegations raised in the Canadian Parliament. Important that Canada’s investigation runs its course and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
All countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law.
We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners about serious allegations raised in the Canadian Parliament.
Important that Canada’s investigation runs its course and the perpetrators brought to justice.
— James Cleverly🇬🇧 (@JamesCleverly) September 19, 2023
In Australia, the spokesperson for the foreign minister Penny Wong says Australia was “deeply concerned” by the allegation and told the country’s SBS News, that it believes that all countries “should respect sovereignty and the rule of law”.
While stating the investigations were still going on, Australia went a step further and said that it expressed “concerns” to India at “senior levels”.
“We are closely engaged with partners on developments. We have conveyed our concerns at senior levels to India,” said the Australian foreign minister’s spokesperson.
The statement also took cognisance that it could impact Australia with its large Indian diaspora. “We understand these reports will be particularly concerning to some Australian communities. The Indian diaspora are valued and important contributors to our vibrant and resilient multicultural society, where all Australians can peacefully and safely express their views.”
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese was meanwhile asked by a reporter as to whether he regretted calling Prime Minister Narendra Modi “the boss” earlier. Albanese responded that the reporter needed to “chill out a bit”.
When asked if he had joined Trudeau in raising the allegation with Modi at the G20, Albanese said: “I don’t talk about Five Eyes intelligence at a press conference, funnily enough. That’s why it is called Intelligence”.
White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson, spoke in a similar tune of deep concern and on the necessity to bring perpetrators to justice.
“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier today. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” Watson said.
Meanwhile, Reuters has reported that a British government spokesperson said on Tuesday, September 19, that it was in close touch with its Canadian partners about the “serious allegations”.
“It would be inappropriate to comment further during the ongoing investigation by the Canadian authorities,” they said.
After the killing of Nijjar in Canada in June, his supporters held a series of rallies targeting Indian diplomatic missions and set up large posters with photographs of Indian diplomats.
When India summoned the Canadian high commissioner in July, Indian external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had also expressed concern about the activities of Khalistan groups in all four Western countries.
“We have already requested our partner countries like Canada, the US, the UK and Australia where sometimes Khalistani activities happen, not to give space to Khalistanis. Because their (Khalistanis) radical, extremist thinking is neither good for us nor for them nor our relations,” he said on July 3.
Canada’s request for joint statement turned down: WaPo
According to the Washington Post, Canada asked the Five Eyes alliance members to jointly announce the findings of the probe. But some members, including the United States, had declined “underscoring the lengths the Biden administration has gone to avoid antagonizing India and court the Asian power as a strategic counterweight to China”.
The Post quoted an anonymous Western diplomat as stating that Canada had been pushing the members of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network to raise Nijjar’s killing with India at the “highest levels of government and issue a joint statement condemning the act as contravening international norms”.
But not all the members agreed, as per the Post‘s source, who claimed that they did not feel comfortable taking such a step when India was organising a major diplomatic event, the lavish G-20 summit in New Delhi. Instead, the alleged assassination was privately raised by several senior officials from the Five Eyes countries in the weeks before the summit, which took place on September 9 and 10, as per the article.
Note: Additional details were added to this story after it was published.