US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday said that the United States is “deeply concerned” over the recent allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau against India regarding the killing of a Khalistani separatist in Canada. He went on to emphasize Washington's close coordination with Ottawa on this matter, stressing the importance of accountability in the case.
During a press conference, Blinken acknowledged the gravity of the allegations brought forward by Prime Minister Trudeau. Trudeau had earlier stated in the Canadian Parliament that Canadian security agencies were actively investigating potential links between agents of the Indian government and the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia.
“Let me say a few things about this. First, we are deeply concerned about the allegations that Prime Minister Trudeau has raised,” the top US diplomat said in response to a question on Trudeau’s allegations against India," Blinken said.
Blinken underscored the ongoing collaboration between the United States and Canada, emphasizing the need for the Canadian investigation to proceed smoothly. He urged India to cooperate with the Canadians in this regard, with a clear focus on achieving accountability for the incident.
“We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues – and not just consulting, coordinating with them – on this issue. And from our perspective, it is critical that the Canadian investigation proceed, and it would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation. We want to see accountability, and it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result,” Blinken said.
When asked about reports suggesting that President Joe Biden had raised the issue with Prime Minister Narendra Modi personally, Blinken chose not to comment on diplomatic conversations but reaffirmed the direct engagement between the United States and the Indian government. He stressed that the most productive course of action at this point is the completion of the investigation.
Furthermore, Blinken highlighted the global importance of addressing instances of alleged transnational repression, adding the United States takes such allegations seriously and encourages all countries to refrain from engaging in such acts, promoting a broader commitment to international stability.
“More broadly – and you’ve heard me speak to this – we are extremely vigilant about any instances of alleged transnational repression, something we take very, very seriously. And I think it’s important more broadly for the international system that any country that might consider engaging in such acts not do so. So it’s something that we’re also focused on in a much broader way," he said.
The individual at the center of this controversy, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF) and one of India's most-wanted terrorists. He was fatally shot outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.
The situation between India and Canada escalated following Trudeau's accusations. India vehemently rejected the allegations, deeming them "absurd" and "motivated." In response to Canada's expulsion of an Indian official related to the case, India reciprocated by expelling a senior Canadian diplomat.
While Canada has not publicly presented evidence supporting its claims, media reports citing Canadian government sources claim that the allegations are based on both human intelligence and signals intelligence, along with inputs from the Five Eyes intelligence network, which comprises the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.
The Canadian government's investigation into Nijjar's death reportedly includes communications involving Indian officials, including diplomats present in Canada.
Prime Minister Trudeau has emphasized Canada's intention to avoid provoking or causing problems with India and has urged New Delhi to take the matter seriously and collaborate with Ottawa to uncover the truth.
In response to the situation, India has called on Canada to take decisive action against terrorists and anti-India elements operating from its territory and has suspended visa services for Canadians. Additionally, India has urged Canada to reduce the size of its diplomatic staff in India to achieve parity in diplomatic presence, as Canada currently maintains a larger diplomatic staff in India than India does in Canada.
The India-Canada relationship has faced strains in recent months due to increased activities of pro-Khalistani elements in Canada, with India expressing its concerns about the Canadian government's response to these issues.