NEW DELHI, Sept 24: Contrary to the earlier claims that the United States would stand with India or at least keep equidistance in the India – Canada diplomatic row over the killing of Khalstani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the US is clearly aligned towards Canada while asking India to “cooperate” in the investigation.
Various sources have confirmed that it was the US which had tipped Canada about alleged involvement of the “Indian agent” in the murder of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, who was killed in the parking lot of a Gurdwara in Vancouver in June. Not only the US, the same intelligence report against India was also shared by the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.
A top US diplomat has confirmed that there was “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” that had prompted Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s offensive allegation about Indian agents’ involvement in the killing of Nijjar. A US-based media report also confirmed about the “Five Eyes” report on the issue.
“There was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that informed Trudeau’s public allegation of a “potential” link between the government of India and the murder of a Canadian citizen,” Canada-based media reports said quoting the US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen. ‘Five Eyes’ network is an intelligence alliance consisting of the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It is both surveillance-based and signals intelligence (SIGINT).
The New York Times reported on Saturday that though the U.S. provided Canada with intelligence after Nijjar’s murder, but communications intercepted by Ottawa were more definitive and led Canada to accuse India of orchestrating the murder plot. “In the aftermath of the killing, U.S. intelligence agencies offered their Canadian counterparts context that helped Canada conclude that India had been involved,” the NYT reported, quoting unnamed allied officials as saying.
Yet what appears to be the “smoking gun,” intercepted communications of Indian diplomats in Canada indicating involvement in the plot, was gathered by Canadian officials, allied officials said.
Justin Trudeau had on September 18 made an explosive allegation of the “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar, the chief of the Canada-based Khalistan Tiger Force KF), in Surrey in British Columbia on June 18. India has rejected Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd” and “motivated.” It also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the case.
In 2020, India designated Nijjar, 45, as a terrorist. The Canadian media report quoted Cohen as saying that he confirmed: “There was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to make the statements that the Prime Minister made.” “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 report said.
It further added that while Cohen would not comment on whether the intelligence informing the Canadian government’s investigation was both human and surveillance-based, or whether it included signals intelligence of Indian diplomats, the US envoy to Canada did say “there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the Prime Minister made.” This is the first admission by any US government official about the sharing of intelligence by Five Eyes partners with Canada even when there were multiple unofficial and non-official reports about the same.
The report also mentioned that the intelligence Mr Trudeau was speaking of did not come from Canada alone and that additional information was provided by an unspecified member of the intelligence-sharing alliance.
“He (Cohen) made this comment while denying a Washington Post report alleging that weeks before Trudeau’s bombshell declaration, Ottawa asked its closest allies, including the US to publicly condemn the murder and that overture was rebuffed,” the report said.
“Very bluntly, I will say that – and you know me well enough – that I’m not in the habit of commenting on private diplomatic conversations,” Cohen was quoted as saying. “Look, I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information,” he said and added: “There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that’s as far as I’m comfortable going,” Cohen said.
After Nijjar’s death, American officials told their Canadian counterparts that Washington had not had any advance information about the plot, and that if U.S. officials had they would have immediately informed Ottawa under the intelligence agencies’ “duty to warn” doctrine, according to two allied officials, the newspaper reported.
The officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss what has become a diplomatic firestorm, said Canadian officials had offered a general warning to Nijjar but had not told him that he was the target of an Indian government plot, according to the report.
Mr Cohen also said the U.S. take very seriously these allegations. “And, you know, if they prove to be true, it is a potentially very serious breach of the rules-based international order in which we like to function,” he said in response to a question.
Mr Cohen’s comments came as Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US is “deeply concerned” about the allegations raised by Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau against India and Washington was “closely coordinating” with Ottawa on the issue and wants to see “accountability” in the case.
Speaking at a press conference in New York on Friday, Blinken said the US has engaged directly with the Indian government on the issue and the most productive thing would be the completion of this investigation. “We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues – and not just consulting, coordinating with them – on this issue. And from our perspective, it is critical that the Canadian investigation proceed, and it would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation. We want to see accountability, and it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result,” Blinken said.
Meanwhile, holding his own party-led government responsible for inaction against Khalistan extremists, Liberal party MP Chandra Arya on Sunday asserted that Hindu Canadians were fearful after the threats issued by the extremist elements there. Mr Arya, who is a leader of PM Justin Trudeau’s party, has repeatedly raised the issue of threats to Hindu Canadians and urged the community to stay calm and vigilant.
Mr Arya’s remark came after Gurpatwant Singh Pannun and other extremist elements issued threats to Hindu Canadians, warning them to go back to India, amid the ongoing standoff between the two nations. Speaking to media, Chandra Arya said, “I am more worried about the consequence of what happened after the Prime Minister’s (Trudeau) statement. The concerns of the safety of Hindu Canadians here, Hindu Canadians are fearful.” He also cited a popular column, which had stated “The risk of ethnic and sectarian bloodshed in Canada is real.” “What I am worried is that the bloodshed is going to be Hindu Canadian’s blood,” Mr Arya added.
The Liberal party leader also clarified that a vast majority of Sikh-Canadians don’t support the Khalistani movement and are closely integrated with the Hindu Canadians. “Most Sikh-Canadians, a vast majority of Sikh-Canadians in Canada is not supporting the Khalistani movement. Well, they may not openly speak against the Khalistan movement, but they have a very close relationship with Hindu Canadians, through family relationships, and social and cultural ties. There is a very great integration of Hindu and Sikh Canadians here. However, a small fraction of the Sikh community are hardcore Khalistani terrorists,” Mr Arya added.