Canada is not trying to provoke India by suggesting it was linked to the urder of a Sikh separatist leader, but wants New Delhi to address the issue properly, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Tuesday.
Trudeau announced on Monday that Canadian intelligence agencies were actively pursuing credible allegations tying New Delhi’s agents to the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in British Columbia in June.
India quickly dismissed the assertion as absurd and said it was expelling a Canadian diplomat, further worsening already poor diplomatic relations between the two G20 members.
Trudeau told reporters that the case, which has derailed protracted talks on a potential bilateral trade deal, had far-reaching consequences in international law.
“The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness. We are doing that, we are not looking to provoke or escalate,” he said.
Canadian officials have so far declined to say what evidence they have potentially linking India to Nijjar’s murder.
“We wanted to make sure that we had a solid grounding in understanding what was going on … we wanted to make sure we were taking the time to talk with our allies,” Trudeau said when asked why Ottawa had revealed its hand now.
Canada has the largest population of Sikhs outside Punjab, with about 770,000 people reporting Sikhism as their religion in the 2021 census.
The United States and Australia expressed “deep concern” over Canada’s accusations. US authorities have urged India to cooperate with the investigation, a senior State Department official told reporters at a news briefing on Tuesday.
Canada and India have been trying to boost low levels of bilateral trade, which in 2022 amounted to just C$13.7 billion ($10.2 billion) out of Canada’s total of C$1.52 trillion. Both sides have announced they are freezing the talks.
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