WASHINGTON: Anglophone solidarity is coming up against “strategic” ties with India in the Canada spat. The Biden White House on Thursday firmly threw its weight behind Ottawa’s allegation about India’s hand in the assassination of a separatist Sikh militant in Canada, saying it took the accusation seriously, and “there is not some special exemption you get for actions like this.”
“It is a matter of concern for us.It is something we take seriously… Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles. And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in response to a question about whether the incident could “drive a wedge” between the United States and India given their burgeoning ties.
In fact, Sullivan accused sections of the US media of trying to drive a wedge between the United States and Canada on this issue. “We have deep concerns about the allegations, and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account,” he said, asserting that Washington has been and will be n contact with the Indians at “high levels” on this issue.
Sullivan’s remarks came after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) reported claims by the Trudeau government that it had “amassed” both human and electronic intelligence pointing to the involvement of Indian officials in the killing. Some was provided by an unnamed ally in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, it said citing unnamed sources.
The Five Eyes alliance comprises the US, Canada, UK, Australia, and New Zealand. The alliance, described by some as “one of the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in human history” exchanges information obtained through signals intelligence — basically electronic eavesdropping — and also human intelligence (spycraft) and geospatial intelligence (through use of satellites).
The closing of ranks in the Anglospheric alliance (strictly speaking the US does not have an official language like the other four) came amid disquiet in Indian quarters that its diplomats were being spied on and are being implicated on the basis of leaks. The Liberal Trudeau government is under pressure from Conservative opposition in Canada to back up its allegations against India with evidence, which New Delhi says has not been shared with it.
Separately though, foreign ministers of the Quad group, which has the US, India, Australia, and Japan met at the UN on Friday and called on “all countries to uphold purposes and principles (of the UN Charter), including refraining from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state.
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“We underscore our commitment to upholding international law as the foundation for stability and equitable treatment of all member states,” a joint statement issued by the group said, in a broad statement that could apply as much to Canada as India.
In a specific reference to terrorism, which India has implicitly accused Canada of turning a blind eye to, the statement said “We are committed to countering terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including preventing the international and cross border movement of terrorists, and countering terror finance networks and safe havens. We stressed the need for a comprehensive and balanced approach to effectively curb terrorist activities through whole of nation and whole of international community efforts.”
The White House backing of Ottawa in the face of India’s case that Canada has been indulgent towards extremists wanted in terrorism-related charges (including the slain militant Hardeep Singh Nijjar) has cast a shadow on the invitation New Delhi has extended to President Biden to attend Republic Day celebrations in January 2024. Asked whether the Canada-India imbroglio would affect the trip, Sullivan said, “I do not have anything to announce about travel by the President to India in January or at any other time today.”