Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Thursday called on India to co-operate with an investigation into the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in British Columbia.
Mr Trudeau said this week that Ottawa had credible allegations linking Indian government agents to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June, prompting an angry reaction from New Delhi. Mr Nijjar, 45, was a Canadian citizen.
The affair has created tension between Canada and India, which on Thursday suspended new visas for Canadians and asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country. Mr Trudeau did not respond when asked about these measures at a press conference in New York on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly.
Traditional Canadian allies have so far taken a relatively cautious approach to the matter. Analysts say this is partly because the US and other major players see India as a counterweight to the growing influence of China, Reuters reported.
“There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with … and we're not looking to provoke or cause problems,” Mr Trudeau said.
“But we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.
“That's why we call upon the government of India to work with us to establish processes to discover and to uncover the truth of the matter.”
The US is in touch with both Canada and India over Ottawa's allegations, US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said on Thursday, confirming for the first time that Washington was talking to New Delhi about the matter.
“There's not some special exemption you get for actions like this,” Mr Sullivan told reporters when asked about Mr Trudeau's statement about possible Indian involvement.
“It is a matter of concern for us, it is something we take seriously.
“We are in constant contact with our Canadian counterparts … and we have also been in touch with the Indian government.”
The Indian Foreign Ministry said Canada had not shared any specific information about the murder. Mr Nijjar supported a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state and was designated by India as a “terrorist” in July 2020.
“As a country with a strong and independent justice system, we allow those justice processes to unfold themselves with the utmost integrity,” Mr Trudeau replied when asked when Canada would release the evidence it had.