Canadian PM urges India to cooperate with probe into Khalistani leader's murder

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference on the sidelines of the UNGA in New York. Photo: Reuters

New York: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has sought India's cooperation to uncover the truth behind the murder of Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar. He pointed out that Canada is not looking to "provoke or cause problems" with India in a raging diplomatic row over the killing of Nijjar and urged New Delhi to take the matter "extremely seriously" and work with Ottawa to "uncover the truth".

"We call upon the government of India to take seriously this matter and to work with us to shed full transparency and ensure accountability and justice in this matter," Trudeau said while responding to questions on the diplomatic row between India and Canada.

"We are a country of 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," added Trudeau, who is here to attend the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

When asked whether his government will take any retaliatory measures following India's suspension of visa services for Canadians, Trudeau said that his government was not looking to provoke or cause problems.

"There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with, not just in the region but around the world. We're not looking to provoke or cause problems. But we are unequivocal about the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.

"That's why we call upon the government of India, to work with us to establish processes to discover and to uncover the truth of the matter and to allow justice and accountability to be served," he said.

Tensions flared between India and Canada early this week following Trudeau's explosive allegations of a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on his country's soil on June 18 in British Columbia. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.

India angrily rejected the allegations as "absurd" and "motivated" and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official over the case.

"I'm saying and repeating what I said on Monday afternoon. Of course, there are credible allegations that we need to take extremely seriously...," Trudeau asserted when asked if the evidence suggested by him in the matter was extensive.

"We have a rigorous and independent justice system and robust processes that will follow their course. We call upon the government of India to engage with us to move forward on getting to the truth of this matter," he said.

Responding to another question, Trudeau said he had "a direct and frank conversation" with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the New Delhi G20 summit on September 10 in which he shared his "concerns in no uncertain terms."

The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) earlier this week said that allegations made by the Canadian Prime Minister to Prime Minister Modi were completely rejected.

Responding to another question, Trudeau said it's extremely important that as a country with a strong and independent justice system, we allow those justice processes to unfold themselves with the utmost integrity.

"The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons Monday morning was not done lightly. It was done with utmost seriousness..," Trudeau said.

"As a country with a rule of law, we have an obligation to ensure that those processes unfold in a rigorous and independent manner and that is what we are ensuring. At the same time, we are ensuring that Canadians stay protected and that we stand up for the international rules-based order. That is something that we are doing..." he said.

When asked whether he was concerned that Canadian allies have not gone nearly as far as him on the issue, Trudeau said, "We're standing up for the rules-based order. We're standing up for the rule of law. We're highlighting how unacceptable it would be for any country to be involved in the killing of a citizen on their home soil."

On Thursday, India asked Canada to come down hard on terrorists and anti-India elements operating from its soil and suspended visa services for Canadians, as escalating tensions between the two nations over the killing of Nijjar pushed their ties to an all-time low.

India also asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic staff in the country, arguing that there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in the mutual diplomatic presence. The size of Canadian diplomatic staff in India is larger than what New Delhi has in Canada. 

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