New Delhi: The investigation into the allegation of India’s role in the June 18 killing of a Khalistani Sikh extremist in Canada will continue, the North American nation’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Ottawa, even as New Delhi already termed the probe ‘tainted’.
“We will continue to work with all partners as law enforcement and investigative agencies continue to do their work,” Trudeau told journalists in Ottawa. “Canada is a country that will always stand up for the rule of law, because if might again starts to make (wrong) right, if bigger countries can violate international law without consequences, then the whole world gets more dangerous for everyone.”
His comment came just two days after Washington DC once again nudged New Delhi to join Ottawa’s probe into the killing of a fugitive Khalistani Sikh terrorist. India responded to the US, citing extremist leader Gurpatwant Pannun’s recent threat video to underline its concerns over the activities of the secessionists in the North American country.
New Delhi’s relations with Ottawa hit a new low after Trudeau on September 18 claimed that his government’s agencies were probing “credible allegations” about India’s role in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in the British Columbia province of Canada.
Nijjar was the commander of the Khalistan Tiger Force and one of India’s most wanted fugitive extremists. He, however, has been living in Canada for the past several years and has been involved in running the campaign for the secession of Khalistan from India.
“From the very beginning when we learned of credible allegations that agents of the Indian government were involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, we reached out to India to ask them to work with us in getting to the bottom of this matter,” Trudeau said on Friday. He said that Canada had also reached out to its friends and allies, like the US and others, to work on “this really serious violation of international law and the sovereignty of a democracy” by India. “This is something that we are taking very seriously,” said the prime minister of Canada.
New Delhi’s envoy to Ottawa, Sanjay Kumar Verma, recently dismissed the probe launched by the agencies of the Government of Canada as ‘tainted’. He hinted that the investigation might have been influenced by the statements of Trudeau.
Verma also stated that New Delhi had not received any “specific or relevant information” from Ottawa in support of the allegation about India’s role in the killing of Nijjar in Canada.
Trudeau’s allegation, however, triggered a diplomatic row, with both sides expelling each other’s diplomats and issuing tit-for-tat travel advisories. India called Canada a safe haven for terrorists and suspended issuing visas for Canadians. It has, however, recently restarted issuing certain categories of visas for the citizens of Canada. New Delhi also made Ottawa downsize its high commission in the national capital of India and its consulates in other cities, leading to the departure of 41 Canadian diplomats.
Trudeau on Friday once again accused India of violating the Vienna Conventions on Diplomatic and Consular Relations and of arbitrarily revoking the diplomatic immunity of Canada’s diplomats. “India’s response is to kick out a whole bunch of Canadian diplomats by violating their rights under the Vienna Convention. That is of concern to countries around the world because if a given country can just decide that their diplomats of another country are no longer protected, that makes international relations more dangerous and more serious,” he added.
“But every step of the way, we have tried to work constructively and positively with India, and we will continue to and that means continuing to work with Indian government diplomats. This is not a fight we want to be having right now but we will unequivocally always stand up for the rule of law,” said Trudeau.
The diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa over the June 18 killing of Khalistani Sikh terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar came up for discussion when India and the United States recently had the fifth round of 2+2 dialogue in New Delhi.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Defence Minister Rajnath Singh hosted their US counterparts – Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin – for the 2+2 dialogue. Jaishankar and Singh also had separate bilateral meetings with Blinken and Austin respectively.
“On India-Canada, these are two of our closest friends and partners and, of course, we want to see them resolving any differences or disputes that they have,” Blinken said in New Delhi. “For that, it would entail Canada moving its investigation (into the killing of Nijjar) forward, and India working with Canada on it,” he added.
(Published 12 November 2023, 17:20 IST)