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India 'Partnetships' Still on Amid Nijjar Probe, Says Canada


Published on: September 26, 2023 | Updated on: September 26, 2023

 Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

Calling the relationship with India "important", Canada’s defence minister Bill Blair suggested that Canada would continue to pursue its partnerships in various sectors like the Indo-Pacific strategy with India while the investigation into allegations of muder of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar continues. He said if the allegations were proven true, "there is a very significant concern that Canada will have with respect to the violation of our sovereignty in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil".

Tensions flared between India and Canada after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s explosive allegations of a "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Nijjar, 45, on his country’s soil on June 18 in British Columbia. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.

India 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.

Canada has been increased security outside the Indian high commission in Ottawa and Indian consulates in Toronto and Vancouver as banned terrorist organisation Sikhs for Justice has planned protests around the Indian missions targeting Indian diplomats. The Canadian authorities also brought down anti-India posters and hoardings outside a gurdwara at Surrey in British Columbia and told them not to use loudspeakers for anti-India radicalisation. The SFJ has also threatened Hindus living in Canada. The Hindu Sikh Unity Forum Canada has condemned these divisive attempts, saying Hindus and Sikhs share a rich intertwined history. "We stand together against violence, extremism, and separatist agendas. Unity is our strength," they said.

Canada had been seeking deeper trade, defence and immigration ties with India before the "credible intelligence," as Mr Trudeau called it, was first raised with Canadian officials, Global News reported.

In an interview aired on Sunday, Mr Blair suggested Canada will continue to pursue those partnerships while the investigation into allegations continues, calling the relationship with India important. "We understand that this can be, and has proven to be, a challenging issue with respect to our relationship with India. But at the same time, we have a responsibility to defend the law, defend our citizens, and at the same time make sure that we conduct a thorough investigation and get to the truth," he said.

If the allegations are proven true, Mr Blair said "there is a very significant concern that Canada will have with respect to the violation of our sovereignty in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil".

Mr Blair said the Indo-Pacific strategy was still a critical one for Canada and has led to increased military presence in the region and commitments for further patrol capabilities. The strategy commits $492.9 million over five years toward those military priorities, out of a total of nearly $2.3 billion over the same period.