July 15, 2024

By Kanishka Singh and David Ljunggren

WASHINGTON/OTTAWA (Reuters) -Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was sure U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken would raise the murder of a Sikh separatist leader when he met his Indian counterpart on Thursday but a U.S. statement after the meeting made no mention of the issue.

Trudeau made his remarks to reporters in Quebec, 10 days after he announced Canada suspected Indian government agents were linked to the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, which took place in the province of British Columbia in June.

Nijjar was a Canadian citizen but India had declared him a “terrorist.” He supported the cause of Khalistan, or an independent homeland for Sikhs to be carved out of India.

Traditional Canadian allies, including the United States, have appeared to take a cautious approach to the matter. Political analysts have said this is partly because Washington and other major players see India as a counterweight to the growing influence of China.

Blinken met Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar on Thursday. Asked directly whether Blinken would bring up the case, Trudeau replied: “The Americans will certainly discuss this matter with the Indian government.”

A U.S. State Department statement after Blinken met his Indian counterpart made no mention of Nijjar’s murder or of Canada as a whole.

A short State Department summary of the issues discussed in the meeting between Blinken and Jaishankar, formally called a readout, listed topics like India’s G20 presidency, the creation of an India-Middle East-Europe corridor and topics like defense, space and clean energy.

India has dismissed Canada’s allegations as absurd. Jaishankar, though, said on Tuesday that New Delhi has told Canada it was open to looking into any “specific” or “relevant” information it provides on the killing.

Trudeau, who is yet to publicly share any evidence, said last week he has shared the “credible allegations” with India “many weeks ago.”

Blinken said last week the United States was “deeply concerned” about the allegations raised by Trudeau and added it was important for India to work with Canada in this investigation.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington and David Ljunggren in OttawaEditing by Chris Reese, Nick Zieminski and Michael Perry)

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