Australia Says It Has Raised Canada Khalistani Terrorist’s Death With India

The Australian foreign minister said the country is monitoring the developments closely.

New Delhi:

In its first reaction to the controversy over Canada’s allegation that Indian officials played a role in the killing of a Khalistani terrorist, Australia has called the reports “concerning” and said it has raised the issue with its “Indian counterparts”.

Australia is a member of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad, grouping with India, Japan and the United States. It is also part of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance with Canada, the US, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.

Speaking in the Canadian parliament on Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had said his government had “credible allegations” linking the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June with the “agents of the Government of India”. The next day, Mr Trudeau said he was not looking to “provoke” India or “escalate” tension, but wanted New Delhi to treat Nijjar’s killing with “utmost seriousness”.

The Indian government has rejected the allegation as “absurd and motivated”.

Responding to a question from a reporter on Mr Trudeau’s claim, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said, “Look, these are concerning reports, and I note that investigations are still underway, but obviously these are concerning reports and we are monitoring these developments closely with our partners, and we’ll continue to do so… We have, Australia has raised these issues with our Indian counterparts, as you would expect us to do.

On whether Australia was planning to raise the issue with Japan, since it is a member of the Quad, Ms Wong said while she can’t give a commentary on what is raised and what will be raised, the country’s principal position is that it believes the sovereignty of all countries and the rule of law should be respected.

Asked if she had concerns about foreign interference from India in Australia, the minister said, “I think Australia is a robust democracy, and I think the Indian diaspora has a range of views, and you know, we have made clear in relation to democratic debate in Australia that the peaceful expression of different views is a key part of Australia’s democracy, and I think most Australians would agree with that.”

Probed for specifics on how Canberra had shared its concerns with New Delhi and the information, if any, that had been shared by Canada, Ms Wong refused to go into details. “I would just say to you that we have been monitoring these developments with partners closely, we will continue to do so, and I will confirm that we have raised our concerns with India. I’m not going to go into any further detail on that.”

She also refused to divulge details on whether the subject was brought up privately at the G20 Summit in New Delhi earlier this month.ย 

To a question on Sikh Indians being “at risk” in Australia, Ms Wong said, “Well, I’d note that these allegations are still being investigated, so I would recognise that fact, but more broadly I would say this: we take the view as a government that Australian democracy is precious, that as a matter of principle, and as a matter of law, Australians of whatever persuasion have a right to peaceful protest.”

“And, in all circumstances, we reflect that right in our public statements and in our private conversations with other governments. You would also know we have, as a Parliament, made very clear statements, both legislatively and as a matter of policy, about the importance of Australian democracy being unaffected by external concerns,” she added.

Canada has expelled a senior Indian diplomat, who, it claims, is the head of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) in the country. India, on Tuesday, asked a senior Canadian diplomat to leave the country within five days.ย 

In a strong denial of Mr Trudeau’s allegations, India’s External Affairs Ministry had said, “Allegations of the Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated. Similar allegations were made by the Canadian Prime Minister to our Prime Minister, and were completely rejected.”ย 

According to a report in The Washington Post, weeks before making the allegations, Canadian officials had sought public condemnation of Nijjar’s killing from their allies, including the United States, but were met with reluctance.

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