WASHINGTON: Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar has said there is a “climate of violence” and an “atmosphere of intimidation” against Indian diplomats in Canada, where the presence of Sikh separatist groups has frustrated New Delhi.

“Because there is freedom of speech, to make threats and intimidate diplomats, I don’t think that’s acceptable,” Jaishankar told reporters in Washington on Friday evening, a day after he met US Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the State Department.

He also confirmed earlier he had spoken to Blinken and the US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan about Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s allegations about India’s involvement in the killing of Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Caught between its close allies, US treads a tightrope

“We’re very concerned about the allegations that have been raised by Canada, by Prime Minister Trudeau,” said Blinken, while urging his Indian counterpart to work with Canada to investigate the killing of the Sikh separatist advocate.

The incident has put the United States in an awkward spot diplomatically, caught between its close allies Canada and India, the latter being a key partner in its efforts against growing Chinese influence.

Blinken said, “We have been in close contact with Canada about that and at same time we have engaged with the Indian government and urged them to work with Canada on an investigation. Those responsible need to be held accountable and we hope that our friends in both Canada and India will work together to resolve this matter.”

Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and supportter of the cause of Khalistan was declared a “terrorist” by India.

Meanwhile, Canadian Sikhs are grateful to Trudeau for standing up to India for their rights. India denied its involvement in Nijjar’s murder in the parking lot of a Sikh temple in Surrey, BC.

But Canadian Sikhs are unconvinced. Canada is home to about 770,000 Sikhs, the highest population outside the northern Indian state of Punjab.

On the other hand, hundreds of Sikh activists on Friday staged a demonstration outside the Golden Temple in India’s Amritsar, demanding punishment for the Nijjar’s killers.

Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2023

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