Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong has confirmed that Australia has raised concerns with India regarding allegations made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that India may have been involved in killing a Canadian citizen.
The remarks came during a press conference in New York where Minister Wong addressed the implications of the issue on international relations.
She also addressed the issue of safety of Australian Sikhs.
Minister Wong noted that the allegations were still being probed. However, she emphasised the Australian government’s commitment to protecting democratic rights and peaceful protest for all citizens.
“We take the view as a government that Australian democracy is precious, that as a matter of principle, and as a matter of law, Australians of whatever persuasion have a right to peaceful protest,” said Minister Wong.
Penny Wong is in the US for the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, expressed concerns over the allegations while responding to journalists. She stated that Australia was closely monitoring the developments in the case and had initiated discussions with its international partners.
“Look, these are concerning reports, and as I’ve said, we are monitoring these developments closely with our partners, and we’ll continue to do so,” said Minister Penny Wong on India-Canada relations and on the response to the allegations against India.
When pressed whether Australia had officially communicated its concerns to India, Minister Wong confirmed that they had raised the matter with their Indian counterparts, underscoring the importance of respecting the sovereignty of all nations and upholding the rule of law.
However, she refrained from divulging specific details about the nature of these discussions, asserting that the specifics of diplomatic communication should remain confidential.
Regarding the involvement of Japan, a fellow member of the Quad alliance along with India, Minister Wong neither confirmed nor denied discussions but emphasised Australia’s commitment to principles of sovereignty and the rule of law.
“I’m sure you would not expect the Foreign Minister of any country to run a commentary on how and what is raised, in detail or what will be raised,” she stated.
The issue of foreign interference was also raised during the conversation. Minister Wong underscored that Australia was a robust democracy and acknowledged the diversity of opinions within the Indian diaspora. She emphasised the importance of peaceful expression of different views in Australia’s democracy.
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau had alleged the Indian government’s involvement in the slaying Canadian-Sikh Hardeep Singh Nijjar. While speaking in the House of Commons, he stated, “Canadian security agencies have been 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. Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty.”
India has dismissed these allegations as “absurd and motivated”.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen and supporter of Sikh independence, was gunned down outside a Sikh temple in Surrey, BC, on 18 June 2023.
Allies Exercise Caution
Matching Penny Wong on India-Canada stand-off, Canada’s allies have showed “little inclination” to wade into an escalating row between Ottawa and New Delhi over these allegations.
Most opted to treat the allegation as a matter still to be investigated – in spite of the fact that the Trudeau government feels it has enough information to make an accusation in Parliament and expel a diplomat, CBC News reported.
On Tuesday, US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said: “They are certainly serious allegations, and we believe in order to determine how credible they are, there needs to be a thorough investigation.”
“Prime Minister Trudeau has called for that, and so we’ll see how Canada moves forward on this. It’s certainly well within their capacity to do this, and we urge India as well to participate and cooperate in that investigation,” Kirby said, adding it is important to find out exactly what happened.
Echoing Penny Wong on India-Canada relations, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese also refused to comment in detail on the matter. “I don’t talk about Five Eyes intelligence at a press conference, funnily enough,” he said in response to a question about India’s alleged role.
“That’s why it’s called intelligence. It’s because we don’t speculate on what the intelligence is. So I don’t intend to talk about Five Eyes intelligence here or anywhere else,” Albanese asserted.
The Five Eyes (FVEY) is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the US.
UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly put out a tweet that made no mention of India at all.
“All countries should respect sovereignty and the rule of law. We are in regular contact with our Canadian partners about serious allegations raised in the Canadian Parliament. Important that Canada’s investigation runs its course and the perpetrators brought to justice.”
For Canada’s allies, the accusation presents the risk of alienating the world’s most populous country just when they least want to do so, the Canadian media outlet reported.