Did ‘Five Eyes’ Spot Killer of Sikh Activist In Canada?

Photo credit: AFP 2023 / NARINDER NANU. Support for the Sikh independence movement in the US and Candada is a source of friction between the government of India and North America.
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Intelligence gained by the “Five Eyes” network of Anglophone countries definitely led to the conclusion that the Indian government instigated the assassination of a Sikh separatist activist on Canadian soil, the United States Ambassador to Canada has claimed.

US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen confirmed that “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” had informed Mr Trudeau.

The Five Eyes group, as originally formed as an intelligence-sharing network that included the US, the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada and New Zealand, has expanded its scope in the past few years.

The Washington Post claimed Mr Trudeau approached Canada’s intelligence allies several weeks ago, and asked them to condemn the murder but he was rejected.

“I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information,” Mr Cohen told CTV News.

“There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that’s as far as I’m comfortable going.”

Five Eyes is an intelligence sharing pact between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Relations between India and Canada hit a nadir after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said authorities had been investigating “credible allegations” that New Delhi was potentially behind the June killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Sikh separatist activist, who was gunned down by two masked men in Surrey, British Columbia.

India has vehemently denied the claims, calling them “absurd and motivated.” India’s foreign ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said Canada has provided “no specific information” to support the allegations.

Both nations have expelled senior diplomats in reciprocal moves, raising the prospect of an awkward rift between key partners of the US.

The spat then escalated further last week when India suspended visa services for Canadian citizens over what it said were “security threats” against diplomats in Canada.

Speaking to CTV, Cohen said the US did express its concern to India over the allegations and asked New Delhi to cooperate with Canada in its investigation.

“If they prove to be true, it is a potentially a very serious breach of the rules based international order,” the ambassador said.

On Sunday, Canadian Defense Minister Bill Blair sought to shift the focus from questions over its intelligence to the criminal investigation of Nijjar’s killing.

In an interview with CBC, Blair said the Five Eyes partnership is “critically important” and that Canada has “very credible intelligence that causes us to be deeply concerned,” but declined to identify the sources of that information.

“It’s another reason why I place such emphasis on the investigation that’s taking place, that we’d be able to move beyond credible intelligence to evidence, strong evidence, of exactly what happened, so that we and the Indian government can know the truth, have the facts and then work together to resolve it in an appropriate way,” he said.

Trudeau on Thursday urged India to “shed full transparency, ensure accountability and justice in this manner.”

“We call upon the government of India to work with us. To take seriously these allegations and to allow justice to follow its course,” the prime minister said at the Canada Mission in the United Nations.

Trudeau said Canada is not looking to provoke or cause problems but said its justice system, “and robust processes will follow its course,” in regard to investigating the allegation.

Delhi has been highly critical of any support for a separate Sikh state, with many such calls emanating from Sikh diaspora present in the US and Canada. A Sikh secessionist insurgency in India in the 1990s resulted in hundreds of deaths.

The State of Connecticut particularly came in for criticism after issuing a declaration favorable to the cause of Sikh independence

Sources: CNN, BBC, news agencies.
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