Justin Trudeau on Thursday reiterated that Canada had "credible reasons" to believe that Indian government agents were involved in the killing of a Sikh separatist leader on Canadian soil as pressure mounted on the prime minister to release evidence.
The fatal shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar – a Canadian citizen and a wanted terrorist in India – has torpedoed ties between the two nations after Canada this week accused New Delhi of being directly involved in the killing.
India denied the allegations and responded on Thursday by indefinitely suspending visa services in all categories for all Canadian nationals due to “security threats” to its consulates. Each country in a tit-for-tak move expelled one senior diplomat.
"There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with ... and we're not looking to provoke or cause problems," Mr Trudeau said in a press conference in New York on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly.
"But we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.
"We call upon the government of India to take seriously this matter and to work with us to shed full transparency and ensure accountability and justice in this matter," he added.
Among the information gathered in the three-month-long investigation into Nijjar's killing were communications involving Indian officials, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.
The report claimed citing unnamed sources that no Indian official, when pressed behind closed doors, “denied the allegation” that there was evidence suggesting Indian government’s involvement in Nijjar’s death.
A Canadian official separately told the Associated Press that the allegation of India's involvement was based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally.
The official said the communications involved Indian officials and diplomats in Canada and that some of the information was provided by a member of the "Five Eyes" intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada.
The US on Thursday confirmed it was talking to New Delhi about the killing of Nijjar as the diplomatic row worsened between the Washington allies.
"There's not some special exemption you get for actions like this," White House spokesperson Jake Sullivan told reporters when asked about Mr Trudeau's bombshell statement. "It is a matter of concern for us, it is something we take seriously."
US president Joe Biden and several members of the Five Eyes raised the murder of Nijjar with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi when they met at the G20 earlier this month, the Financial Times reported. The Indian foreign ministry said Canada had not shared any specific information about the murder.
“As a country with a strong and independent justice system, we allow those justice processes to unfold themselves with the utmost integrity,” Mr Trudeau replied when asked about evidence.
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