New Delhi/Toronto/New York: Admitting it for the first time, the United States ambassador to Canada has said that there was "shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners" that had prompted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's offensive allegation about India's involvement in the killing of a Khalistani extremist on Canadian soil.
The US envoy to Canada David Cohen made this comment during an interview with the Canadian news channel CTV. He, however, did not elaborate on whether the intelligence informing the Canadian government was both human and surveillance-based or whether it included the signals intelligence of Indian diplomats. This is the first admission by any US government official about the sharing of intelligence by Five Eyes partners with Canada.
India has rejected Mr Trudeau's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated". It also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move over Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official over the case.
"In the days since, as diplomatic tensions continue to ratchet up -- from Canada reassessing its staffing in India to India suspending visa services for Canadians -- there have been swirling questions about what intelligence is at the centre of this story, who was aware of it and when," the CTV report said.
The US said it is in communication with India and Canada on the allegations. "We have engaged with the Indian government. But certainly, we're not going to get into our private diplomatic conversations. But, yes, there have been conversations with our partners in the Indian government," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters at her daily news conference.
The US secretary of state Antony Blinken said America has been "consulting and coordinating very closely" on this issue and it will be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation. He said the US wants to see accountability and it’s important that the investigation runs its course and leads to that result.
"We are deeply concerned about the allegations that MrTrudeau has raised. We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues -- and not just consulting, but coordinating with them -- on this issue," said Mr Blinken in New York.
"I’m not going to characterise or otherwise speak to the diplomatic conversations that we have. We have been engaged directly with the Indian government as well. And again, I think the most productive thing that can happen now is to see this investigation move forward, be completed. And we will hope that our Indian friends will cooperate with that investigation as well," he added.
Mr Blinken further said that the US is extremely vigilant about any instances of alleged transnational repression and that is something it takes "very seriously".
"I think it’s important, more broadly, for the international system that any country that might consider engaging in such acts not do so. So, it’s something that we’re also focused on in a much broader way," Mr Blinken said.
Premier of British Columbia in Canada David Eby said that the information provided to MrTrudeau regarding India’s involvement in Nijjar’s murder is all "open source information" that is available on the internet.
"The briefing I got from the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is all open source, which I find frustrating... On this specific incident in Surrey, I was contacted by the PM about what he was going to say in Parliament and I was given a briefing by the CSIS. I expressed my frustration about our inability to get more concrete information and I have articulated that to the federal government," said Mr Eby, adding that he feels that the federal government was "holding back information".
Criticising the Canadian Prime Minister for his reckless actions in a deepening diplomatic row with India, former Indian envoy to the country Vikas Swarup asked Ottawa to take steps to de-escalate the dispute and allow the truth to come out in public.
Mr Swarup, who served as India's high commissioner to Canada from 2017 to 2019, also repeated the Indian government's accusations that Ottawa has been too accommodating with violent Sikh separatists, something he said Canada will regret. He also reminded the Canadian government that "everyone is innocent until proven guilty" and to allow "the rule of law to take its course".
Meanwhile, Canadian ministers and politicians denounced an "online hate video" against Hindus. Dominic LeBlanc, Canada's minister of public safety, democratic institutions and intergovernmental affairs, said that the "circulation of an online hate video targeting Hindu Canadians runs contrary to the values we hold dear as Canadians... There is no place for acts of aggression, hate, intimidation or incitement of fear," Mr LeBlanc wrote in a post on X.
The video showed Gurpatwant Singh Pannu of the pro-Khalistan group Sikh for Justice and a lawyer openly asking Hindus from Canada to "go back to India".