Western intelligence led to Canada accusing India of Sikh activist’s assassination, US Ambassador says

By Sahar Akbarzai, Rhea Mogul and Helen Regan, CNN

Updated 11:32 PM EDT, Sun September 24, 2023


Intelligence gained by the “Five Eyes” network led to Canada’s public accusation that the Indian government may have played a role in the assassination of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil, the US Ambassador to Canada said Sunday.

I’m “confirming that there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the prime minister made,” US Ambassador to Canada, David Cohen, told CTV’s Question Period with Vassy Kapelos in a Sunday interview.

Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing pact between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, though the ambassador would not confirm if that shared intelligence came from the US. “I’m not. I wouldn’t in any circumstance,” Cohen said.

Relations between India and Canada plummeted last week after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities had been investigating “credible allegations” that New Delhi was potentially behind the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist activist, who was gunned down by two masked men in Surrey, British Columbia.

India has vehemently denied the claims, calling them “absurd and motivated.” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Canada has provided “no specific information” to support the allegations.

Both nations have expelled senior diplomats in reciprocal moves, raising the prospect of an awkward rift between key partners of the US.

The spat then escalated further last week when India suspended visa services for Canadian citizens over what it said were “security threats” against diplomats in Canada.

Speaking to CTV, Cohen said the US did express its concern to India over the allegations and asked New Delhi to cooperate with Canada in its investigation.

“If they prove to be true, it is a potentially a very serious breach of the rules based international order,” the ambassador said.

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Categories: Canada, India

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  1. This week in New York, as he listened to questions from reporters, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reliable smile began to fade.

    Unsurprisingly, nearly all the questions were about India and the shocking allegation made by Mr Trudeau earlier in the week: there was credible evidence the Indian government had participated in the extrajudicial killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, a Sikh activist whom India has accused of terrorism.

    Delhi has denied having anything to do with the murder.

    Speaking slowly, carefully, the prime minister stuck closely to his talking points. “We’re not looking to provoke or cause problems,” he said. “We’re standing up for the rules-based order.”

    But where, several reporters asked, were Canada’s allies? “So far in time,” one journalist said to Mr Trudeau, “you seem to be alone”.

    In the public eye at least, Mr Trudeau has appeared to be left largely on his own as he goes toe to toe with India, one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, with a population 35 times bigger than Canada’s.

    In the days since the prime minister made the explosive announcement, his allies in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance provided seemingly boilerplate public statements, all stopping far short of full-throated support.

    UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said his country took “very seriously the things that Canada are saying”. Using nearly identical language, Australia said it was “deeply concerned” by the accusations.

    But perhaps the most deafening silence came from Canada’s southern neighbour, the United States. The two countries are close allies, but the US did not speak up with outrage on Canada’s behalf.

    When President Joe Biden publicly raised India this week, while speaking at the UN, it was not to condemn, but to praise the country for helping to establish a new economic pathway.

    Mr Biden’s National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan later denied that there was a “wedge” between the US and its neighbour, saying Canada was being closely consulted. But other public statements were tepid, more nods to “deep concern”, coupled with affirmations of India’s growing importance to the Western world.


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