WASHINGTON: The United States and Canada are dialling down their diatribe over the alleged New Delhi hand in the killing of Sikh pro-Khalistan extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar amid a strong pushback from India about the “operating space” given to violent militants due to domestic political compulsions.
External affairs minister S Jaishankaracknowledged at a think tank event in Washington DC on Friday morning that the matter did come up during talks with US secretary of state Anthony Blinken and US NSA Jake Sullivan, who he said “shared US views and assessments on this whole situation”.He, in turn, presented India’s perspective on the matter, he said, adding, “I think hopefully we both came out of those meetings better informed.”
The minister, who has said India is open to examining any specific and relevant information Ottawa provides about the killing, left no doubt about New Delhi’s ire at the US and Canada’s permissive approach towards Khalistani extremists that has resulted in attacks on the Indian consulate in San Francisco and open threats to Indian diplomats. Nijjar had been designated by India as a terrorist.

While Canada, prompted by Washington, has taken the lead in alleging New Delhi’s hand in the hit, some US lawmakers who have Sikh constituents in their Congressional districts too have jumped into the fracas, calling for an investigation into the matter.
“I’m concerned by reports that India’s government is targeting Sikh activists abroad & will seek to learn more as a member of the Committee on Homeland Security. I will work with local & federal government officials to ensure necessary actions are undertaken to protect the Sikh community,” Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell of California said on X (formerly Twitter) on Thursday.
The lawmakers ignored the fact that extremist Khalistanis constitute a small percentage of Sikhs, with the moderate majority under attack from the radicals.

Meanwhile, in a sign that Ottawa is trying to put a lid on the raging controversy, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Thursday that the country is committed to building closer ties with India, despite what he claimed was “credible allegations” that the Indian government was involved in the killing last June.
At a press conference in Montreal, Trudeau said it is “extremely important” that Canada and its allies continue to engage “constructively and seriously” with India given its growing importance on the world stage.
“India is a growing economic power and important geopolitical player. And as we presented with our Indo-Pacific strategy, just last year, we’re very serious about building closer ties with India,” the Canadian media quoted him as saying.

“At the same time, obviously, as a rule of law country, we need to emphasise that India needs to work with Canada to ensure that we get the full facts of this matter,” he added.
Trudeau said he got assurances from the US that Blinken would be raising the allegations during his meeting with Jaishankar on Thursday.
But Blinken did not mention the issue during a brief appearance with Jaishankar for a photo spray at the US state department on Thursday afternoon. Nor did the hot button issue figure in the readout that followed the meeting.
US state department spokesperson Matthew Miller said the two officials “discussed a full range of issues, including key outcomes of India’s G20 presidency, and the creation of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor and its potential to generate transparent, sustainable, and high-standard infrastructure investments”.

Blinken and Jaishankar also emphasised the continued importance of cooperation ahead of the upcoming 2+2 Dialogue, in particular in the areas of defence, space, and clean energy, the readout added.
However, it was Jaishankar who acknowledged at a think tank event on Friday morning that the matter did come up during talks with Blinken and US NSA Jake Sullivan even as Washington kept it low-key.
In brief remarks before they met, Blinken welcomed “my friend and colleague, foreign minister Jaishankar”, spoke of the “very good discussions” they have had over the last weeks, and said he’s “looking forward to pursuing them this afternoon”. No mention of the Canada spat.

Jaishankar, for his part, thanked the US “for all the support at the G20 summit” and said he looked forward to seeing Blinken, whom he referred to as “Tony”, in New Delhi for the 2+2 engagement.
There was no public mention of the India-Canada spat in which the US had emerged as an interlocutor of sorts, having purportedly fed “intelligence” to Ottawa pointing to an India hand in the killing.
Jaishankar has pushed back strongly at the allegation, saying it is not the policy of the Indian government to undertake such missions, while critiquing “permissive” Western policies that give a free run to violent extremists in the name of free speech. But he also said New Delhi is open to examining any “specific” and “relevant” information Canada presents in the matter.

Amid India-Canada row, Jaishankar meets US secretary of state Antony Blinken in Washington

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