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US Asks India To Join Canadian Probe Into Nijjar Murder, Says 'We're Closely Coordinating With Canada'

The White House also denied a media report which claimed that the US had rebuffed a Canadian proposal for a joint statement from its allies on the Indian government's alleged involvement in the murder.

New Delhi: After a top White House official called for India to join the probe into Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing, the US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti further emphasised that he hoped that “traditional friends and partners will cooperate” in investigating and hold those responsible accountable.

Meanwhile, the White House denied a media report which claimed that the US had rebuffed a Canadian proposal for a joint statement from its allies on the issue. 

“Reports that we rebuffed Canada in any way on this are flatly false. We are coordinating and consulting with Canada closely on this issue,” US National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter.

She was responding to a Washington Post story that reported that Canada had been pushing its closest allies to issue a joint statement in recent months, but several countries, including the US, had demurred.

“This is a serious matter and we support Canada’s ongoing law enforcement efforts. We are also engaging the Indian government,” added Watson.

After Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the explosive allegation that the Indian government had a hand in the killing of a Canadian citizen, the reaction from allies, especially the United States, has been closely scrutinised. 

Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing platform with the United States, United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand. At the same time, the US and Australia also share another diplomatic network, the Quad, with India.

The first reaction from the US was on Monday night, when the spokesperson for the White House National Security Council, Adrienne Watson, conveyed that Washington was “deeply concerned” at the allegations and hoped that the investigations proceed to bring the preparators to “justice”. Trudeau had called on the Indian government “to co-operate with Canada to get to the bottom of this matter”.

Australia went a bit further, with foreign minister Penny Wong stating that she had “raised this issue” with India. 

On Tuesday night, White House NSC’s director for strategic communication John Kirby told  CNN, “We believe a fully transparent comprehensive investigation is the right approach so that we can all know exactly what happened and of course, we encourage India to cooperate with that.”

This was the first time that Washington asked India to join Canada’s probe into the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, whom India considers a Khalistan terrorist. India had dismissed Trudeau’s allegation of a hand in the killing as “motivated and biased”.

The scowls said it all. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at their meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Delhi last week. Photo: Twittter/Justin Trudeau

This line was again underscored by the US ambassador to India Eric Garcetti, who also implicitly called for India to join the probe.

“I would just say two things. One, those who are responsible should be held accountable. We hope that traditional friends and partners could cooperate in getting to the bottom of it,” he said in answer to a question at an interaction organised by Ananta Aspen Centre.

Garcetti said that the US and India had gone through rocky patches like the 1971 war. He pointed out that there had also been a perception in the US that India didn’t want to be part of the international order on nuclear proliferation.

“Canada is a dear friend, ally, partner and neighbour… we happen to care deeply for Canada just as we care deeply for India. And I think that moments like this don’t define our relationship. But they certainly can slow down progress. And they’re gut checks for everybody to say how do we interact with each other? What do we stand for? How do we enforce ideas like sovereignty and international law? And what are our responsibilities to one another?” he said.

The former Los Angeles mayor pointed out that “any allegations like this should be troubling to anyone”.

“But with an active criminal investigation, I hope that we can make sure that perpetrators are brought to justice and that we can all allow the space for that information and that investigation to occur before anybody leaps to judgment. And to me, that’s the most important role,” said Garcetti.

He also underlined that to “each one of us, sovereignty is a very important principle”.

Asked whether the US could mediate in this diplomatic spat, he said that it was “way too early.”

“We certainly have a deep respect and huge agenda and relationship here. And us having a relationship speaks for itself. We share our border we share so much history and culture together and the values. I think, for us, it is critical for us to return the three principles – sovereignty, non-interference to allow the criminal justice investigations to be carried out, And then there’ll be accountability for that,” he said.

To another query whether there was a mismatch between India and the West on the issue of democratic principles and incitement of violence, the US envoy stated, “We take the safety of Indian diplomats seriously.” He also added that violence is not freedom of expression.