Ottawa: Despite levelling allegations over the involvement of India in the murder case of Canada-based pro-Khalistan hardliner Hardeep Singh Nijjar, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said that it was “extremely important” for his country and its allies to continue engaging “constructively and seriously” with India given its growing importance on the world stage.
Addressing a press conference in Montreal on Thursday, the Prime Minister said “Canada is still committed to building closer ties with India”, The National Post newspaper reported.
“India is a growing economic power and important geopolitical player. And as we presented with our Indo-Pacific strategy, just last year, we’re very serious about building closer ties with India,” he told reporters.
“At the same time, obviously, as a rule of law country, we need to emphasize that India needs to work with Canada to ensure that we get the full facts of this matter.”
Trudeau went on to claim that he got assurances from the US that Secretary of State Antony Blinken would be raising the issue with India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar.
“The Americans have been with us in speaking to the Indian government about how important it is that they be involved in following up on the credible allegations that agents of the Indian government killed a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil,” The National Post quoted the Prime Minister as saying.
“This is something that all democratic countries, all countries that respect the rule of law need to take seriously. We are moving forward in a thoughtful, responsible way anchored in the rule of law with all of our partners including in our approach to the government of India,” he added.
In the Canadian Parliament on September 18, Trudeau had said that Canadian security agencies had been actively pursuing “credible allegations of a potential link” over India’s involvement in the killing of Nijjar, who was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18.
India has rejected the claims as “absurd and motivated”.
In a rebuke to Trudeau’s allegations, Jaishankar, who is currently on a visit to the US, said earlier this week that “this is not the government of India’s policy”, adding that New Delhi had already informed Ottawa that it is open to looking at specific and relevant information.
Making the remarks during a conversation at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York after his address at the UN General Assembly on Tuesday, the Minister said: “We told the Canadians that this is not the government of India’s policy. We told them that look, if you have something specific, if you have something relevant, let us know. We are open to looking at it.”
He also said that in the last few years, Canada witnessed a lot of organised crime related to secessionist forces, violence and extremism.
“They’re all very, very deeply mixed up,” he added.
Jaishankar went on to say that India has been giving Canada information about organised crime leadership operating out of their soil, adding that were a large number of extradition requests and terrorist leaders identified.
Trudeau’s allegations have led to a diplomatic spat between India and Canada, with tit-for-tat expulsions of senior diplomats and travel advisories.