No 'Wedge' Between US and Canada Over India, Says White House

The Biden administration says there is no “wedge” between the U.S. and Canada over India
No 'Wedge' Between US and Canada Over India, Says White House
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington on Sept. 21, 2023. (Madalina Vasiliu/The Epoch Times)
Noé Chartier

The Biden administration shot down the idea there could be a “wedge” between Canada and the United States over India, following Prime Minister Justin Trudeau publicly accusing New Delhi of being involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen.

“I firmly reject the idea that there is a wedge between the U.S. and Canada,” said U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan on Sept. 21.

“We have deep concerns about the allegations, and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account,” he added during a press briefing at the White House.

Mr. Trudeau said on Sept. 18 that there were “credible allegations” of Indian agents having a “potential link” to the June killing of Sikh secessionist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C.

The U.S. administration had initially reacted by saying it was “deeply concerned” about the allegations and said it’s “critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice,” but it stopped short of calling out India.

Washington has been building stronger ties with New Delhi, an approach followed by other Western capitals seeking to distance themselves from Beijing.

Mr. Sullivan told reporters that the U.S. is “closely” consulting with Canada on the matter and that his administration has also been in touch with the Indian government.

He would not say whether U.S. President Joe Biden has or would raise the issue directly with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, only that “we have been and will be in contact with the Indians at high levels on this issue.”

“It is a matter of concern for us. It is something we take seriously. It’s something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country. There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this,” said Mr. Sullivan.

India has reacted forcefully to the public accusation, putting Canada in the same group as Pakistan as a safe haven for anti-India terrorist activity.

“We know this for some time, our western neighbour Pakistan, but the issue of safe havens and places to operate has been provided abroad, including in Canada,” said Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Sept. 21.

India has a longstanding rift with Pakistan, in matters such as the contested Kashmir area, and has often accused Ottawa of being soft on Sikh separatists living in Canada.

As for concrete actions, New Delhi says it has stopped issuing new visas to Canadians and has asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country. This followed a tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsion earlier this week.

Given the fallout, Mr. Trudeau has been repeatedly asked by the Conservatives and others to share some evidence to back his claim. He has countered by saying the investigation must run its course.

Mr. Sullivan was asked whether the U.S. has any intelligence or investigative evidence to support Ottawa’s claims.

“I’m not going to speak to either intelligence or law enforcement matters from this podium. I will let that process play out,” he answered.

Mr. Trudeau came out strong against India, rising in the House of Commons on the first day of the fall session. He has since tempered his words, saying on Sept. 21, that he’s “not looking to provoke or cause problems” with India.

The prime minister also hasn’t indicated whether there would be retaliation for India stopping the issuance of new visas to Canadians.