Trudeau Reiterates Allegations Against India, US Insists It Has Not Rebuffed Canada
India sticks to its guns, tensions spike
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, addressing a press conference on the sidelines of the United Nation General Assembly, reinforced his initial announcement about the alleged complicity of “Indian agents” in the murder of Canadian national and Khalistan supporter Hardeep Singh Nijjar on Canadian soil.
He made it clear that in his view, “there are credible reasons to believe that ants of the government of India werre involved in the killing of a Canadian on Canadian soil.”
“That is something of the utmost and foundational importance in a country of rule of law, in a world where international rules based order matters”, he told reporters. He further said that the decision to go public with these allegations was “not taken lightly.”
He again called upon India to cooperate in the investigation saying that New Delhi must work with Canada to “establish processes to discover and to uncover the truth” so that justice is served. The Canadian PM said, “we call upon the government of India to work with us, to take seriously these allegations and to allow justice to follow its course.”
He placed the decision to inform the people about the Canadian investigation in the perspective of his governments priorities to defend its citizens and uphold the rule of law. “ We are going to continue to do the work necessary to keep Canadians safe and to uphold our values and the international rules based order. That’s our focus right now,” Trudeau added. And in response to a question maintained that “Canada has a rigorous and independent justice system that we trust to follow through the processes.”
Initial reports both within Canada and India that the five eyes allies have been muted in their response to Trudeau’s statements have since been countered. One by Trudeau’s reiteration of his stand with firm and categorical statements that comes after further diplomacy with the five eyes countries – United States, Australia, UK and New Zealand.
Two, by a US White House rebuttal of reports that claimed that Washington had rejected or brushed off Canada’s allegations regarding India’s involvement in the murder of Nijjar.US National Security spokesperson John Kirby said, “There’s been some press speculation out there that the United States rebuffed Canada in terms of talking about their investigation, and I just want to stress that those reports are just flatly false, untrue.” He further added that the US “encourages India to fully cooperate.”
Three, Canadian media reports quoting government sources now state that one of the five eyes allies provided the intel to the Canadian authorities. The reports did not name the country but appeared to point towards the US that has been the most vocal amongst the allies on the issue. And clearly both India and Canada, at the moment, are looking at Washington for support. India that has taken strong diplomatic action by suspending visas as well, said last night that it was willing to discuss the matter if Canada gave “specific information”.
Meanwhile both sides continued to take actions against each other. Both countries have expelled a senior diplomat. If Canada called off trade talks, Indian missions in Canada stopped issuing visas to Canadian nationals citing security concerns after some extremist elements threatened Indian diplomats. As Trudeau secured the endorsement of his allies the US, UK and Australia for his allegations against India, New Delhi decided to ask the Canadian mission to prune its staff on a reciprocal basis. A travel advisory to Indian nationals warning them of stack by extremist elements was also issued.
New Delhi is unlikely to revise its contention that it was not involved in Nijjar’s murder. On the other hand, it has unequivocally accused Canada of harbouring anti-India terrorists and criminals wanted in India and for political reasons encouraging anti-Indian actions by the Sikh extremists including issuing menacing threats to its diplomats.
New Delhi will have no difficulty in establishing its case because it has pursued this issue with Canada since 1982 even before Canada-based Sikh terrorists bombed Air India’s plane in 1985 killing 300 plus passengers.
As for Trudeau, he will lose political capital at home (already said to be dwindling as per opinion polls) if his allegation against India is proved wrong.
The Indian government can ill-afford to be seen as an offender without losing face internationally and losing political capital at home on the eve of State Assembly and parliamentary elections lined up in the next few months.
Prime Minister Modi’s personal position is at stake in his bid for a third term in the May 2024 parliamentary elections.Modi’s carefully crafted political image as a leader of the Global South will be in tatters if India, under his watch, is bracketed in the Western democracies with Russia and China that eliminate their dissidents living abroad.
The emerging scenario does not augur well for a rapprochement, unless a big power like the US steps in to mediate. An opinion piece in Global Times, the Chinese communist party organ, says that the US will mediate if only to keep India on its side in its conflict with China. Washington’s stake in a relationship with India is higher than Canada’s.
But the American stand thus far has not been helpful. On Monday, the White House’s National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said: “We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau earlier today. We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigations proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”
Western countries argue that they, as democracies, are committed to allowing the expression of community rights even at the cost of eroding the sovereignty of another country. But this will wear thin in the face of India’s unambiguous assertion that Canada’s tolerance and covert encouragement of separatist activities aimed at it is tantamount to invading its sovereignty.
If India stands to lose its newfound Western allies in its faceoff with China, Canada could lose the economic clout it is trying to build in the Indo-Pacific region where India is a key player, a fact recognised by the Canadian PM at his press conference in New York.