June 23, 2024

(Bloomberg) — Allegations that India’s government was involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada have barely affected the South Asian nation’s diplomacy in the Indo-Pacific, according to High Commissioner to Australia Manpreet Vohra.

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While Australia initially called for an investigation after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the accusations against India, there had been no significant reaction from Southeast Asia and beyond, Vohra said on the sidelines of an Asia Society event in Sydney on Thursday.

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“I don’t think it’ll impact on any other relationship,” he said in an interview with Bloomberg, adding it was up to Canada to lay out evidence to back its allegations. “In the absence of that, what do we do? Other than perhaps lean more toward analysis of why Prime Minister Trudeau said what he did. And the reasons he said what he did.”

Relations between New Delhi and Ottawa plunged into a deep freeze last month after Trudeau said India’s government was involved in the assassination of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen who had been at the forefront of a movement calling for an independent Sikh homeland in India called Khalistan.

India has suspended visas for Canadians and the two sides are in talks about cutting diplomatic staff in the South Asian country.

Vohra said apart from the initial inquiries, Australia had not had further conversations with the Indian embassy about the allegations.

Trudeau’s claims come at a time of major outreach by the Indian government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi, as the South Asian nation widens and deepens its diplomatic and economic footprint across the world as part of the rise of what is being called the Global South.

During the Asia Society panel in Sydney, the envoy pushed for more economic integration between India and Australia, home to almost 1 million Indian migrants. Vohra said a lack of knowledge about India at the top of Australian society and businesses was hampering attempts to expand those ties.

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