Deeply concerned, say US and Australia on Justin Trudeau’s charge against India

NEW DELHI: Australia and the US, Canada’s allies in the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing setup, expressed deep concern over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of a “potential link” between Indian government agents and the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau makes a statement in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada September 18 (REUTERS)

India has rejected the claim by Trudeau as “absurd and motivated”, with the external affairs ministry saying such “unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists…who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty”.

New Delhi has also expelled “senior Canadian diplomat”, its retaliation to Ottawa’s well-publicised expulsion of an Indian official over the death of the Khalistani leader.

Also Read: In tit-for-tat move, India orders ‘senior Canadian diplomat’ to leave in 5 days

The US expressed concern at the allegations and said it is critical for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau,” White House National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a brief statement.

“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” Watson added.

Also Read: India paused trade talks with Canada over Khalistan row after Trudeau G20 visit

A spokesperson for Australia’s foreign minister Penny Wong said Canberra’s concerns had been conveyed to New Delhi at “senior levels”.

“Australia is deeply concerned by these allegations and notes ongoing investigations into this matter,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “Australia believes all countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law.”

The spokesperson said, “We are closely engaged with partners on developments. We have conveyed our concerns at senior levels to India.”

The spokesperson further said these “reports will be particularly concerning to some Australian communities” and pointed to the importance of free speech. “The Indian diaspora are valued and important contributors to our vibrant and resilient multicultural society, where all Australians can peacefully and safely express their views,” the spokesperson added.

Australia is home to a 750,000-strong Indian community, and the country has witnessed rallies and events organised by pro-Khalistan elements, including a so-called referendum for the creation of a separate Sikh homeland. The Australian government has condemned violence that occurred at some of these events and said it doesn’t recognise the referendum.

Canada’s public broadcaster CBC News cited a senior Canadian government source as saying that Trudeau briefed leaders of some of the country’s closest allies about the case, including his UK counterpart Rishi Sunak, French President Emmanuel Macron and US President Joe Biden.

On September 12, when Trudeau and his delegation left India after an extended stay caused by a technical problem on the prime minister’s aircraft, National Security Adviser Jody Thomas was not part of the team as she had quietly travelled to the UK, CBC News reported.

Thomas “informed the UK government that Canada’s relations with India were about to get worse now that Canada had credible evidence linking India’s government to Nijjar’s death”, CBC News cited a source as saying.

Joly also told reporters she planned to raise the matter with G7 counterparts on the margins of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. Canada’s public safety minister Dominic LeBlanc has said Thomas and the head of Canada’s intelligence agency had traveled to India several times in recent weeks to discuss the matter with their counterparts.

However, Australia’s Prime Minister Anthony Albanese refused to be drawn on the issue at a news conference in Melbourne on Tuesday. “I don’t talk about Five Eyes intelligence at a press conference. Funnily enough, that’s why it’s called intelligence because we don’t speculate on what the intelligence is,” he said.

The Five Eyes intelligence alliance brings together Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.

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