Indian FM talks to US top officials on Canada row

NEW DELHI: India’s foreign minister on Friday said he spoke to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about Canadian allegations on New Delhi’s possible involvement in the June killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada.
Ties between the two countries have been strained after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told parliament earlier this month that Canada suspected Indian government agents were linked to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
India has dismissed Canada’s allegations as absurd and both countries have expelled a diplomat in a tit-for-tat move. A US official confirmed that Blinken spoke to India’s Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday and urged India to cooperate with the Canadian investigation, but a US State Department statement made no mention of the issue.
“They shared US views and assessments on this whole situation and I explained to them at some length … a summary of the concerns which I had,” Jaishankar said at a Hudson Institute event in Washington DC.
A short summary of the issues discussed in the meeting between Blinken and Jaishankar, formally called a readout, listed points like India’s G20 presidency, the creation of an India-Middle East-Europe corridor and topics like defence, space and clean energy.
Jaishankar said on Tuesday that New Delhi has told Canada it was open to looking into any “specific” or “relevant” information it provides on the killing.
Trudeau, who is yet to publicly share any evidence, said last week he has shared the “credible allegations” with India “many weeks ago”.
Blinken and Sullivan said last week the US was “deeply concerned” about the allegations raised by Trudeau.
The US ambassador to Canada told Canadian television that some information on the case had been gathered by the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, which includes the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK.
Nijjar was a Canadian citizen but India had declared him a “terrorist”. He supported the cause of Khalistan, or an independent homeland for Sikhs to be carved out of India.
Traditional Canadian allies, including the United States, have appeared to take a cautious approach to the matter. Political analysts have said this is partly because Washington and other major players see India as a counterweight to the growing influence of China.
Separately, hundreds of Sikh activists staged a demonstration outside the Golden Temple in Amritsar, in the northern Indian state of Punjab, demanding punishment for the killers.
Holding posters of Nijjar, the protesters outside the holiest of Sikh shrines shouted slogans asking New Delhi to stop extrajudicial operations against separatists seeking Punjab as an independent state.
“It is time and opportunity for New Delhi to talk with Sikh leadership,” said Paramjit Singh Mand, a leader of Dal Khalsa, the group, which is advocating for a separate Sikh homeland and organised the protest.
Sikhs make up just two per cent of India’s 1.4 billion people but they are a majority in Punjab, a state of 30 million where their religion was born 500 years ago.
Nearly 400 activists participated in the protest and later held prayers at the temple for the release of political prisoners and for the well-being of exiled separatists, said Kanwar Pal, political affairs secretary of the group.
“We thank the Canadian government for exposing the Indian design, how India is operating on foreign soil, intervening in Canadian affairs,” he said.
Canadian Sikhs staged small protests outside India’s diplomatic missions on Monday, burning an Indian flag, while waiving yellow flags marked with the word “Khalistan”, referring to their support for making Punjab an independent state. –Agencies