The foreign minister also pointed out that Ottawa had been told by New Delhi that India does not support extra-territorial killings
There may be a huge chasm to be bridged in India’s relationship with Canada, but it is a sign of India’s heft in the world today that its increasingly warm ties with the US have not been dented by the curveball thrown by the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau when he charged India on the floor of the Canadian Parliament with complicity in the killing of the Khalistani activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
It is apparent that the elephant in the room may not have intruded overly into the meeting India’s external affairs minister S. Jaishankar had with the US secretary of state Antony J. Blinken in Washington on Thursday that the official US statement skipped saying whether Blinken had brought up the India-Canada conflict during the talks.
It should, however, come as no surprise that Mr Blinken did indeed broach the subject of Canada’s unsubstantiated or yet to be proven charge, as could be made out from disclosure by a US official. The US has respected the fact that a line exists between its bilateral and strategic alignment ties with India as in the Quad that must be furthered in serving far larger causes.
Taking up the issue brought up by Canada, regarding an alleged “hit job” on a Khalistani propagandist and India-designated terrorist who espoused the cause of Sikh nationhood to the extent of trying to break up India’s sovereignty, was a minor diplomatic task to be undertaken in the cause of a fellow democracy and northern neighbour. Mr Blinken had earlier said that the US was “deeply concerned” about the Trudeau allegations.
What Canada has not done is to follow up a sensational expose and take steps in proving allegations, which were naturally enough termed as “absurd” and “motivated” by India. The foreign minister also pointed out that Ottawa had been told by New Delhi that India does not support extra-territorial killings as a state policy.
It is another matter that a few democracies close to India have aired the opinion that India must cooperate with the probe, but which might be possible only when Canada has spelt out its case to what it terms a “robust judiciary” by naming the perpetrators and any others who may have taken part in a conspiracy to assassinate Nijjar.
Canada has thus far barely shared any public evidence to back up what it called “credible allegations”, leave alone provide India with any specific or relevant information on the assassination carried out in the car park of a gurdwara in British Columbia.
Meanwhile, the matter of promoting India as the bulwark against China continues apace with the US paying much attention to Mr Jaishankar’s Washington visit in meetings he had also with the national security adviser Jake Sullivan and US Trade Representative Katherine Tai.
The pronouncements from both sides on the success of the G-20 (also mentioned by the US President Joe Biden at the UN General Assembly), the prospects of building a trade route through rail and sea to Europe, forthcoming 2+2 meetings and expanding trade and economic cooperation, including the termination of disputes taken to the World Trade Organisation, are all indicative of the higher plane to which the US and India are taking their ties.
The Canadian contretemps, even if Mr Trudeau surprisingly declares now that Canada is intent on improving its ties, is only a minor blip on the radar for India that has moved on its relationships and promoted its strategic interests in pronounced manner in a couple of busy months of diplomacy.