Expressing concern over the killing of a Sikh activist in Canada, the United States on Tuesday called for bringing the perpetrators to justice. 

US National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said in a statement, “We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada´s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday demanded that India treat with “utmost seriousness” Canada’s allegations of New Delhi’s possible involvement in the slaying of a Sikh exile, a concern echoed by Washington. Acknowledging “serious allegations” British prime minister’s spokesman said they were in close touch with Canadian partners over these serious allegations.

Following the expulsion of an Indian diplomat by Ottawa, New Delhi also asked a senior Canadian diplomat to leave India. The Indian government rejected the “absurd” allegations by Canadian prime minister’s of its involvement in the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. In a shocking statement before the House of Commons on Monday evening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Canada’s national security agencies are investigating “credible allegations” that the “agents of the government of India” were involved in the killing of prominent Canadian Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver in June.

Prime Minister Trudeau told reporters, “India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that, we are not looking to provoke or escalate.” Trudeau said the case is “extremely serious” and “has far-reaching consequences… for Canada.” Trudeau said his government did not rush to judgment in the case and had worked closely with its intelligence agencies. “We wanted to make sure that we had a solid grounding in understanding what was going on and analysis and indeed in facts,” he said, adding that Ottawa had “fully shared with the government of India the seriousness… of our preoccupations and indeed conclusions.”

New Delhi insisted it had nothing to do with the killing, adding that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “completely rejected” the accusation when earlier raised privately by Trudeau. “Allegations of Government of India´s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd,” the foreign ministry said in a statement. “We are a democratic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”

Britain said it is continuing trade talks with India despite Downing Street acknowledging “serious allegations” that the Indian government was linked to the killing of Nijjar. The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We’re in close touch with our Canadian partners about these serious allegations. It’s right that the Canadian authorities are looking into them, but I’m not going to get ahead of that work that needs to take place now.”

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said his government backs a Canadian investigation to determine whether India was involved in the killing of a Sikh leader, in a case that sent ties between Ottawa and New Delhi nosediving. Cleverly, who is in New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly, told AFP he had met with Trudeau on Monday and discussed the case. “I think it´s incredibly important that we allow the Canadian authorities to conduct their investigation,” said Cleverly, adding it would be “unhelpful” to speculate on their outcome. “Obviously, we have a very strong relationship with Canada, a very strong relationship with India,” he continued, adding he expected “full cooperation” by India in the probe.

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc said Canada’s national security advisor and the head of Canada’s spy service have travelled to India to meet their counterparts and to confront the Indian intelligence agencies with the allegations. He called it an active homicide investigation led by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. Relations between Canada and India have been tense in recent months. Canada just cancelled a trade mission to India that was planned for the fall. Opposition Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre said if the allegations are true they represent ”an outrageous affront to our sovereignty.”

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, who is Sikhs For Justice (SFJ) General Counsel and Attorney at Law in New York, said that Canada’s prime minister’s statement before the parliament had established beyond any doubt that India organised the assassination of Nijjar who was head of the Canadian Chapter of the Khalistan Referendum. Pannun said expelling Pavan Kumar Rai, the head of RAW from the Canadian Indian High Commission, was not enough and India’s High Commissioner should be expelled. He said “Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s statement in the Parliament corroborates SFJ’s stance on Nijjar’s assassination. Nijjar was assassinated by India for leading the Canadian Chapter of the Khalistan Referendum. That is why SFJ has given a call for holding ‘Shaheed Nijjar Referendum’ on October 29 in Surrey BC.” He further said “This is the victory of Sikh people’s ballot in Khalistan Referendum over India’s bullets fired upon Shaheed Nijjar. We said we would respond to India’s bullets with ballots and we have shown the world that India is terrorists and not the pro-Khalistan Sikhs.”

Opposition New Democrat leader Jagmeet Singh, who is himself Sikh, called it outrageous and shocking. Singh said he grew up hearing stories that challenging India’s record on human rights might prevent you from getting a visa to travel there. “But to hear the prime minister of Canada corroborate a potential link between a murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil by a foreign government is something I could never have imagined,” Singh said.

Analysts say Canada’s accusation would bracket India with nations that assassinate political opponents abroad. Jocelyn Coulon, a former adviser to Trudeau who is now an independent researcher, said Canada’s accusation would have “the effect of a bomb around the world”. India will join “the group of nations that assassinate political opponents” abroad, much as Saudi Arabia orchestrated the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in 2018, said Coulon.

Trudeau was in New Delhi last week for the G20 summit and met privately with his Indian counterpart but his visit was a testament to the strained ties between their countries. Modi expressed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada”, according to an Indian government statement. India has often complained about activities of the Sikh diaspora abroad, particularly in Canada, which New Delhi believes could revive a Sikh separatist movement. On September 10, more than 135,000 Canadian Sikhs cast their votes in the Khalistan Referendum at Surrey BC’s Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara where Nijjar was assassinated. Thousands of local Sikhs made queues to cast their votes carrying posters of Sikh martyrs and chanting devotional and political slogans in support of Khalistan. 

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