Amid a steady stream of leaks to the media about the sharing of intelligence between members of the Five Eyes alliance on the killing of Khalistani leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar and calls from top US officials for India to cooperate in the investigation into the murder, New Delhi has reiterated that it is ready to look at any specific and relevant information related to Canada’s accusations. External affairs minister S Jaishankar said in New York that if any country, including Canada, provides specific information related to Nijjar’s death, the Indian government will look into it. At the same time, he made it clear that India has not yet received any such information, and that it is “not the government of India’s policy” to engage in acts such as the killing of the Khalistani activist. Jaishankar is the first senior Indian leader to speak publicly on the matter, which has left the India-Canada relationship in tatters after years of deep differences over Ottawa’s response to the activities of Khalistani elements active on Canadian soil.
India has gone to the extent of characterising Canada as a “safe haven” for extremists and terrorists espousing the cause of Khalistan, a description previously reserved for arch-rival Pakistan. Indian authorities have highlighted how the Canadian side has simply not acted on information provided in recent years on the activities of Khalistani leaders, some carried out with the active support of Pakistan, or ignored requests for the extradition of almost two dozen extremists or criminals linked to the Khalistan movement.
While there have reportedly been back-channel contacts between the two sides in recent days, it would appear that India is waiting for Canada to make the next move, especially the sharing of specific and actionable information. This would certainly help clear the air and provide an off-ramp. Jaishankar’s remarks make it clear that India is certainly willing to go the extra mile to resolve this issue. Equally, his comments about government policy contain a message for elements within the country that have sought to portray the killing of the Khalistani activist, especially on social media platforms, as some sort of muscular extension of the country’s stance towards anti-India extremism emanating from foreign soil. Such posturing will do no good for an India that is keen to establish its credentials on the global stage as a rising power that is also a “vishwa mitra” (friend to the world).
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