'No Special Exemption' for Any Country: US on Canada's Allegations Against India

This is probably the strongest statement from the United States backing Canada since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood up in the House of Commons on September 18.

New Delhi: The United States has said that there is “not some special exemption you get for actions like this” – speaking of any country facing allegations similar to those made by Canada against India regarding the latter’s alleged involvement in the killing of Canadian activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.

The US national security advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters in Washington on Thursday, September 21, that Canada’s accusations against the Indian government were a “matter of concern”.

Canada is not only a neighbour of the United States, but one of its closest allies and a member of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing network.

“It is something we take seriously. It’s something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country. There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this. 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,” said Sullivan.

This is probably the strongest statement from the United States backing Canada since Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stood up in the House of Commons on Monday, September 18

The Canadian prime minister had claimed that authorities were pursuing “credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”. India had termed the allegations as “absurd and motivated”. After Canada expelled an Indian diplomat, India also did the same. 

Following Trudeau’s explosive statement, there had been focus on the reaction of the other Five Eyes states, many of whom have been closely working with India to prop it up as a counter-weight to China.

Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom had said that they were “deeply concerned” at the allegations. The Australian foreign minister Penny Wong said that Canada’s concerns had been conveyed to India. Both Australia and the United States asked India to join the Canadian investigation.

Earlier, The Washington Post published an article that Canada had pushed its alliance partners to issue a joint statement to condemn India for violating international law. It claimed that several allies, including the United States, rebuffed Canada on this proposal.

This article was widely circulated in the Indian and Canadian media with commentary that the United States had been muted in its support for Ottawa.

The first official rebuttal, not surprisingly, came from the Canadian foreign ministry, which denied that Ottawa had broached such a proposal.

Later, public broadcaster CBC quoted an anonymous senior US administration official strenuously denying the WaPo story. 

This was followed by the US national security council spokesperson Adrienne Watson tweeting that the article was “flatly false” and that Washington supported Canada’s law enforcement efforts.

In his answers at the White House briefing on Thursday, NSA Sullivan also attempted to reinforce the line that US had been at the front in supporting Canada.

“As soon as we heard from the Canadian Prime Minister publicly about the allegations, we went out publicly ourselves and expressed our deep concern about them, our support for a law enforcement process to get to the bottom of exactly what happened and to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable,” he said.

Sullivan also referred to having seen attempts in the media “to try to drive a wedge between the United States and Canada on this issue”.

“And I firmly reject the idea that there is a wedge between the U.S. and Canada.  We have deep concerns about the allegations, and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account,” he stated.

To a query as to whether the US had got evidence to support Canada’s claim, he didn’t answer directly. “I’m not going to speak to either intelligence or law enforcement matters from this podium. I will let that process play out. We are in, as I said before, continuous communication and consultation with the Canadian government. And we will remain so as we go forward”.

Canada’s CBC had quoted Canadian government sources as saying that it had obtained human and signals intelligence to demonstrate the involvement of Indian diplomats in Nijjar’s killing. It also said that an unnamed Five Eye member had also provided some evidence.

While Sullivan strongly supported Canada, he also didn’t directly criticise India. Sullivan also didn’t answer a question on whether President Biden to speak with the Indian PM on this matter. 

“I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations that have either already happened or are going to happen on this topic, only to say that we have been and will be in contact with the Indians at high levels on this issue,” he said.

The Financial Times had reported that President Biden, along with some other leaders of Five Eye countries, had expressed concern over Canada’s allegations during the G-20 summit.

Meanwhile, the US NSA also didn’t confirm whether Biden will accept India’s invitation to be the Republic Day chief guest in January 20224. “And I do not have anything to announce about travel by the President to India in January or at any other time today,” he replied.