India flags concerns over pro-Khalistani activities in Canada
New Delhi: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday called on India to cooperate with an investigation by Canada into the killing of a Sikh separatist in June that has triggered a major diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa.
The ties between India and Canada came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations in September of a “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
“We think it is very important that India works with Canada on its investigation, and that they find a way to resolve this difference in a cooperative way,” Blinken said.
“But that really does go with Canada moving its investigation forward and India working with Canada on it. And that’s something that I’ve discussed with our Indian counterparts, including today,” he said at a media briefing here.
Blinken and US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin were in Delhi for the fifth edition of the ‘2+2’ dialogue.
“These (India and Canada) are two of our closest friends and partners, and of course we want to see them resolving any differences or disputes that they have as a friend of both,” the US Secretary of State said.
At a separate media briefing, Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said New Delhi conveyed to the US side it’s serious concerns over increasing activities of pro-Khalistani elements in Canada.
“Insofar as Canada is concerned we have been having very consistent conversations with all our friends and partners. Our position on this matter has been enunciated and explained in full detail on multiple occasions,” Kwatra said.
“The thrust of our conversations with our partners is no different today than it is at any other forum — it is essentially that we have core security concerns, a recent video surfaced from Pannun which presents a very serious security concern for the Indian interest,” Kwatra said.
Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, founder of outlawed Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), recently released a video threatening passengers of Air India flights on November 19, the day the ICC world cup final takes place.
“We have made our position very, very clear to our friends and partners, they understand and appreciate that sense of where India comes from,” he said, when asked whether India’s ties with Canada figured in the talks.
Days after Trudeau’s allegations, India temporarily suspended issuance of visas to Canadian citizens and asked Ottawa to downsize its diplomatic presence in the country to ensure parity.
Canada has already withdrawn 41 diplomats and their family members from India. India has resumed some of the visa services.
Answering a question, Kwatra said the situation in the Middle-East figured in the talks.
“Among regional developments, three sets of things discussed included developments in the Middle-East. Both sides shared their perspective of their concerns, how they look at the situation, and various elements of the developing situation,” he said. The foreign secretary said India’s position on the issue is well-known, adding both sides shared their perspective of their concerns and how they look at the situation.
He said certain elements of how both sides look at the situation are common.
“From India’s perspective, we have always stood for a two-state solution and early resumption of dialogue,” Kwatra said, noting that when the hostilities started, India condemned the horrific terror attacks.
“We have asked for strict observance of international humanitarian law, de-escalation of situation and condemned the civilian casualties,” he said.