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Allies walk ‘diplomatic tightrope’ after Nijjar murder

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The US and UK issued similar statements on Tuesday, saying the investigation must continue and those responsible held accountable.

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OTTAWA — Canada’s allies expressed cautious support Tuesday, a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the Indian government was involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and Sikh leader.

As the United States, United Kingdom and Australia issued statements, a senior government source dismissed as “absolutely false” a story in the Washington Post that Canada’s close allies had weeks earlier “rejected ” Canadian officials demand that the killing be publicly condemned. Nijjar was killed in Surrey, BC, earlier this year.

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On Monday, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly told reporters that Trudeau raised the case with US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. On Tuesday, the US and the UK issued similar statements, saying the investigation must continue and those responsible will be held accountable.

“I would argue that the US and some of its other Western allies have to walk this very delicate diplomatic tightrope, because they view Canada as an ally, but they also value their partnership with India, which has taken on greater strategic dimensions in recent years,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center in Washington, DC.

The United States government said in a statement on Tuesday that it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations. “We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that the Canadian investigation continues and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

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A statement from UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly posted online said “all countries must respect sovereignty and the rule of law.”

“We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners regarding serious allegations raised in the Parliament of Canada. It is important that the Canadian investigation is ongoing and that the perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Meanwhile, a statement from Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong said the country is “closely in touch with partners on developments. We have conveyed our concerns to senior levels in India.

The statement said Australia was “deeply concerned” by the allegations, according to Australian broadcaster SBS.

“Australia believes that all countries must respect sovereignty and the rule of law,” it said.

Canada is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing alliance with the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday, citing a Western official, that Canada’s “closest” allies had earlier rejected Canada’s request to join the accusation against India. A Canadian government source said in response to the story that there was “obviously a lot of disinformation being thrown around.”

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Emily Williams, Joly’s director of communications, said in a statement that “Minister Jaishankar, the Foreign Minister of India, was the only foreign minister who contacted Minister Joly about the allegations surrounding Hardeep’s murder Singh Nijjar before the Prime Minister. announcement yesterday.”

Western countries increasingly turned to India as a counterbalance to China. Kugelman said that “in many Western capitals, there is a multi-partisan consensus that India is a key strategic player and partner.”

Kugelman said Canada’s allies want to express a sense of solidarity with Canada but are reluctant to go too far, for example, calling on India to respond.

“I think Washington and London and other major capitals know that the Indian government is very sensitive to any kind of external criticism directed at India’s domestic affairs and policies, even the that criticism comes from close partners,” he said.

“That’s not to say there won’t be behind the scenes, backchannel diplomacy,” Kugelman said.

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