Ties with India appear to have undergone ‘a tonal shift’: Canada’s Trudeau

Toronto, Dec 20 (IANS) Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said that Ottawa’s relations with New Delhi appear to have undergone “a tonal shift”, following US indictment of an Indian national in a plot to kill a Sikh separatist on American soil.

The US indictment appears to have convinced the Narendra Modi government to adopt a more sober tone, Trudeau told CBC news channel in a year-end interview.

“I think there is a beginning of an understanding that they can’t bluster their way through this and there is an openness to collaborating in a way that perhaps they were less open before,” the Canadian PM said.

“There’s an understanding that maybe, maybe just churning out attacks against Canada isn’t going to make this problem go away.”

India had rejected Trudeau’s claims as “absurd and motivated” hours after the Prime Minister said in September that there are credible allegations of a potential link over India’s involvement in Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing in Canada.

Trudeau told CBC that Canada does not want to be in a situation of having a fight with India right now over Nijjar’s killing, and instead wants to work on the trade deal and advancing the Indo-Pacific strategy.

However, he added that it is “foundational for Canada to stand up for people’s rights, for people’s safety, and for the rule of law. And that’s what we’re going to do”.

While New Delhi has constituted a high-level inquiry committee to look into the security concerns raised by the US government, it has asked Ottawa to show “concrete evidence” backing Trudeau’s allegations.

India said that it is only asking for specific and relevant information so that it can help Canadian investigators reach their conclusion.

In his first public response to US allegations, Prime Minister Narendra Modi told the Financial Times newspaper on Tuesday that the issue will be examined, but a few incidents cannot derail ties between India and the US.

“If someone gives us any information, we will definitely look into it. If a citizen of ours has done anything, good or bad, we are ready to look into it. Our commitment is to the rule of law,” Modi said.

Hours after the US charged Nikhil Gupta with conspiracy to assassinate Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, Trudeau said that New Delhi needs to take the charge “seriously” and cooperate in the investigations.

Reacting to Trudeau’s remarks, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “as far as Canada is concerned, they have consistently given space to anti-India extremists and violence. That is at the heart of the issue”.

In an interview to Canadian Press last week, Trudeau said that his statement linking Indian agents to the killing of Nijjar was meant to deter India from repeating a similar action in the country. He said the message was intended as an extra ‘level of deterrence’ as “too many Canadians were worried that they were vulnerable”. – IANS

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