New Delhi: The US on Wednesday favoured a thorough investigation into killing of a Khalistani separatist in Canada in June, two days after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of a “potential” involvement of Indian government agents in the case kicked up a major diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa.
US Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti also described Trudeau’s allegations as “troubling” and underlined the importance of following principles of international law, sovereignty and non interference.
In his statement in the House of Commons on Monday, Trudeau said that “any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.” India on Tuesday strongly rejected Trudeau’s 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.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the Canadian Khalistani separatist leader, was shot dead by two gunmen in Surrey on June 18.
“Obviously, any allegations like this should be troubling to anyone. But with an active criminal investigation, I hope that we can make sure that the perpetrators are brought to justice,” Garcetti said.
“And that we all allow the space for that information and that investigation to occur before anybody leaps to judgment,” he said.
The US ambassador was speaking at an interactive session at the Ananta Centre, a leading think-tank on strategic affairs.
“To me, that’s the most important role I think each one of us can play. Sovereignty is a very important principle,” he said while referring to comments by the US National Security Council spokesperson as well as the remarks by the State Department spokesperson.
“We’ve been in regular communication. I’m the son of a prosecutor. So, I know when there are criminal investigations it’s best to leave things at that until we have more information,” he said.
Terming Trudeau’s allegations as “very serious”, US National Security Council (NSC) Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said Washington supports Ottawa’s efforts to investigate the matter and encourages New Delhi to cooperate.
“We believe a fully transparent comprehensive investigation is the right approach so that we can all know exactly what happened and of course, we encourage India to cooperate with that,” Kirby said in an interview to CNN.
Asked about his opinion on the case, Garcetti said he was not going to tell leaders of other countries what to do.
“But I think it’s incumbent on all of us to remember the principles of international law, the principles of sovereignty, and non-interference. And that can be heard both directions but needs to be heard appropriately,” the envoy said.
“And it’s something that we stand by for sure. America won’t retreat ever from those values and that’s why I think it’s very important as we’ve said, that this investigation be allowed to take its course,” he said.
Garcetti also highlighted the close ties between the US and Canada.
“We’re always in close communication with Canada. Canada is a dear friend, ally and partner and neighbour. Not just in moments like this. But all the time we speak regularly. We share information,” he said.
Garcetti said the US-Canada relationship speaks for itself.
“Canada is a dear friend, partner, ally. It is a trading partner and happens to be our northern neighbour. We care deeply for Canada just as we care deeply for India and Indians,” he said.
Questioned about Khalistani protests in the US, the ambassador said those responsible should be held accountable and hoped that “traditional friends and partners” could cooperate in getting to the bottom of this.
“We’re working on this — on the protection of Indian diplomats and taking serious investigations of incidents like what we saw in San Francisco,” he said.
Khalistani activists attempted to burn down the Indian consulate in San Francisco on July 2.