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“Where’s Evidence”: Five Eyes ally New Zealand’s Deputy PM slams Canada on Hardeep Nijjar murder allegations


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Amid the diplomatic face-off between India and Canada over Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations of an India role in the killing of a Khalistani terrorist, a key ally of Ottawa has questioned the lack of evidence of New Delhi’s involvement.

Winston Peters, New Zealand’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, has told The Indian Express in an interview Canada has not shared any evidence that establishes its allegations.

At the centre of the diplomatic row between India and Canada is the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar (45), chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force and one of India’s most-wanted terrorists. Nijjar was shot dead outside a gurdwara in Canada’s British Columbia in June.

In September last year, shortly after he attended the G20 summit in India, Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau said in parliament that Canadian security agencies were “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”. India has trashed the allegations, describing them as “absurd” and “motivated”. Bilateral relations between the countries have since nose-dived.

In October, Canada withdrew 41 diplomats, citing an Indian threat to “unethically revoke” their diplomatic immunity. India had then rejected the idea that it had violated the Vienna convention on diplomatic relations. “The state of our bilateral relations, the much higher number of Canadian diplomats in India, and their continued interference in our internal affairs warrant a parity in mutual diplomatic presence in New Delhi and Ottawa,” it had said in a statement.

The US, an ally of both Canada and India, has said Washington DC has engaged with the Indian government on the issue. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said, “We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues – and not just consulting, coordinating with them – on this issue. And from our perspective, it is critical that the Canadian investigation proceed, and it would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation.”

In fact, the US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen last year said in an interview that “shared intelligence” among partners of Five Eyes – an intelligence alliance of the US, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – helped lead Canada to make the statements that the Prime Minister (Trudeau) made”.

Responding to questions on whether Canada had shared information on the Nijjar case with its ‘Five Eyes’ allies, Mr Peters said it was handled by the previous New Zealand government.

This marks the first instance of a Five-Eyes partner openly questioning Canada’s claims regarding the Nijjar case. Nijjar, a designated terrorist in India, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on the evening of June 18, 2023.

The Five Eyes alliance is an intelligence network established post-World War II between the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Its genesis lies in the post-war 1946 UKUSA Agreement, intended as a cooperative arrangement for sharing signals intelligence (SIGINT).

The 78-year-old, who is visiting India, became Deputy Prime Minister after Centre-Right parties came to power in New Zealand in November last year.

“I wasn’t here, it was handled by the previous government. But look, sometimes when you are hearing Five Eyes information, you are hearing it and saying nothing, it’s coming past you. You don’t know the value or the quality of it, but you are pleased to have it. You don’t know whether there is going to be substantial material value or nothing. But the very, very critical information that matters… This was mainly handled by the previous government.”

“As a trained lawyer, I look okay, so where’s the case? Where’s the evidence? Where’s the finding right here, right now? Well, there isn’t one,” he said.

Canada gives the same old rhetoric

Canada said on Thursday that it continues to “actively” investigate the killing of Khalistani separatist Canadian Hardeep Singh Nijjar. The comment, that came in response to statements by New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters during his visit to Delhi, where he spoke about the case in Canada, and evidence shared thus far by Canadian authorities. Canada and New Zealand are part of the “five eyes” intelligence sharing network along with the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia, that regularly coordinate on security issues.

“Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Canada is a rule of law country and the protection of our citizens and the defence of our sovereignty are fundamental,” the spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada, the Canadian Foreign Ministry, told that, doubling down on allegations made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Parliament last year. The spokesperson added that the Canadian authorities remain engaged with New Delhi on this “serious matter” and that it was “pivotal to respect the justice process.”

New Zealand respond to Canada’s objections

The New Zealand government has clarified comments made by its Deputy PM and Foreign Minister Winston Peters in India on the Hardeep Singh Nijjar murder case after Canada lodged objections.

“New Zealand’s position on the allegations remains unchanged. If they are proven correct, then that would be of serious concern. The minister’s point is that this is an ongoing criminal investigation. It needs to run its course before clear conclusions can be drawn,” said John Tulloch, spokesperson for the Deputy PM.

In India, Peters had said there was no conclusive evidence or findings from the Canadian Government that validated the involvement of Indian agents in Khalistani terrorist Nijjar’s murder in Surrey in June last year.


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