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Biden’s adviser: India will ‘not get special exemption’ on row over Sikh killing in Canada

The US will stick to its principles and will not grant India any special dispensation over “serious” allegations of involvement in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada, an adviser to Joe Biden said in rare remarks, according to Independent.

US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan made the statement at a regular press briefing on Thursday that the US is “constantly” in contact with Canadian counterparts to support their investigation, as well as with the Indian government at a high level.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada has “credible reasons” to believe that agents of the Indian government were involved in the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and wanted terrorist in India.

The growing diplomatic conflict between Canada and India, creates a quandary for Washington, which seeks co-operation with India to counter China, and remains an ally of Canada, a member of the Nato and Five Eyes alliance.

The media asked Mr Sullivan whether the Canadians’ allegations against India could drive a wedge in US-India relations amid efforts to restore economic and diplomatic relations. Here is what he replied:

“I’m not going to get into private diplomatic conversations that have either already happened or are going to happen on this topic, only to say that we have been and will be in contact with the Indians at high levels on this issue.”

Mr Sullivan added the allegations are a matter of concern and something that the US takes very seriously. He claimed:

“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. Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles.  And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.”

Mr Sullivan stressed that they were in close consultation with Canadian counterparts and were “supportive of the efforts they are undertaking as part of this investigation”.

Rebuffing the press reports that the allegations caused a rift between Canada and the US, he said:

“I firmly reject the idea that there is a wedge between the US and Canada”.

He did not respond to a question about whether the U.S. has any intelligence or investigative data to back up Canada’s claims.

Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Centre in Washington, expressed his views on Mr Sullivan’s comments, saying the US rarely makes such statements. He said:

“He was essentially saying India shouldn’t get a free pass-something you rarely hear from US officials speaking publicly.”

President Biden, while attending the G20 summit in India, voiced his concerns to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the meeting, the Financial Times reported.

Mr Biden and other members of the Five Eyes made the suggestion to discuss the topic before Mr Modi during the summit after Mr Trudeau had briefed allies on the allegations of Nijjar’s murder and voiced requests for support in the fraught situation.

The White House has not yet reacted in any way to the announcement.

India has already denied the allegations, even though Canada has yet to provide evidence of them. In turn, New Delhi indefinitely suspended the issuance of visas of all categories to all Canadian citizens due to a “security threat” to the country’s consulates. In response, each country expelled one senior diplomat. In a press conference from New York, Mr Trudeau called upon the Indian government:

“To take seriously this matter and to work with us to shed full transparency and ensure accountability and justice in this matter”.

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