Blinken: U.S. Expects “Accountability” From India After Canada Accuses It of Being Involved in Death of Sikh Activist

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken addressed the growing tension between Canada and India on Friday, saying the U.S. is “deeply concerned” about the allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India was involved in the murder of a Canadian citizen earlier this year.

Blinken, who spoke publicly at a news conference in New York City, is the highest-ranking U.S. official to discuss the matter, which has been escalating since Monday, when Trudeau accused the Indian government of being involved in the June 18 killing of Sikh activist and leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Secretary Of State Blinken Holds Press Conference
Secretary Of State Antony Blinken speaks during a press conference at the Lotte Palace Hotel on September 22, 2023 in New York City. MICHAEL M SANTIAGO / GETTY IMAGES

Nijjar was gunned down in the parking lot of a gurdwara, a Sikh place of worship, in Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver in British Columbia. He was a vocal Sikh activist and proponent of the Khalistan movement, which aims to create an independent Sikh homeland in the Punjab state of India. The separatist movement began after the Indo-Pakistan partition of 1947, and is considered a controversial issue in India.

In addition to publicly accusing India this week, Canada expelled a senior diplomat from India and issued a travel advisory for the country, citing a threat of terror attacks. 

India strongly denied involvement in Nijjar’s murder, and in response, expelled a senior diplomat from Canada. 

India on Thursday suspended visas for Canadian citizens and issued a travel advisory for Canada, citing security threats against its diplomats there.

Modi greets Trudeau at 2023 G20 Summit in New Delhi
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hand with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ahead of the G20 Leaders’ Summit in New Delhi on Sept. 9, 2023.EVAN VUCCI/POOL/AFP VIA GETTY IMAGES

The U.S. is actively coordinating with Canada as they continue to investigate Nijjar’s death, Blinken said, and he encouraged India to work with Canada.

“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,” Blinken said in response to a question from a journalist about the issue. “We want to see accountability, and it’s important that the investigation run its course and lead to that result.”

He added that while the U.S. is focused on this specific case, it also sees Nijjar’s shooting death as an opportunity to discourage other countries from engaging in acts that violate international rules-based order. 

“We are extremely vigilant about any instances of alleged transnational repression, something we take very, very seriously,” Blinken said. “And I think it’s important more broadly for the international system that any country that might consider engaging in such acts not do so.”

Modi, Biden and Trudeau greet one another at the 2022 G7 summit
President Joe Biden greets Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau looks on at the 2022 G7 summit in Germany.SEANGALLUP / GETTY IMAGES

Blinken was asked about how this growing tension might impact relations between the U.S. and India, which has become an important strategic and economic partner in Asia for the U.S. In June, both countries signed the U.S.-India Comprehensive Global and Strategic Partnership, and released a statement saying the agreement “affirmed a vision of the United States and India as among the closest partners in the world.”

Blinken said he does not want to characterize or speak to the larger diplomatic conversations yet, and said the U.S. is still focused on seeing Canada’s investigation move forward. However, he said the U.S. has “been engaged directly with the Indian government as well.”

Source : CBS News