US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen has said that the intelligence provided by a 'Five Eyes' ally informed the claim that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made about the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada.
Earlier this week, Trudeau claimed that there were "credible allegations of a potential link" between the Indian government and the death of Nijjar in June in Canada's British Columbia province. The Canadian government also expelled a senior Indian diplomat posted in Canada and outed him as an Indian intelligence official. The developments have plunged the India-Canada relationship, which was already strained for years, to an all-time low.
Nijjar was a designated terrorist who headed Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), which is also a designated terrorist organisation.
Now, amid reports that the Canadian government has human and technical intelligence for the suspected Indian involvement, Cohen has said that intelligence shared by a Five Eyes ally was part of the information that formed the basis of Trudeau's claim.
In an interview with CTV News of Canada, Cohen said there was "shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners" that informed Trudeau's claim. The entire interview would be aired on Sunday, but excerpts have been made available.
Cohen confirmed to CTV News that "there was shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners that helped lead Canada to making the statements that the Prime Minister made".
The 'Five Eyes' is an intelligence-sharing alliance between the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. It was formed after the World War II in 1946. The United States, UK, and Canada are also part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and are among the closest partners.
Earlier, the Associated Press had reported that surveillance intelligence had been provided to Canada by a Five Eyes ally, but this is the first time that a senior official has confirmed it on the record. The AP had reported that the intelligence involved communication between Indian officials and diplomats in Canada.
In the interview with CTV, Cohen did not name which Five Eyes ally shared the intelligence with Canada but said that there was "a lot of communication" between Canada and United States over the matter. Prior to making allegations public, the Canadian government had briefed closest allies including the United States and Trudeau had personally briefed US President Joe Biden and UK PM Rishi Sunak of the matter, as per reports.
Cohen told CTV, "Look, I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information. There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that's as far as I'm comfortable going."
Cohen also said the United States takes the allegations "very seriously". On multiple occasions, the United States has expressed serious concerns over the incident and has said there is no exception to India or anyone else in such cases.
"And, you know, if they prove to be true, it is a potentially very serious breach of the rules-based international order in which we like to function...We think it's very important to get to the bottom of it," said Cohen to CTV.
Following Trudeau's allegations, the India-Canada relations have plunged to an all-time low. India has forcefully rejected Trudeau's allegations and has expelled a Canadian diplomat posted in Delhi understood to be a Canadian intelligence official. India has also suspended visa services for Canadians and has ordered the downsizing of Canadian missions in India. India has termed Canada as a "safe haven" for terrorism as a number of Khalistani organisations and leaders in addition to organised crime syndicates are based in Canada that are involved in anti-India activities.
For years, India-Canada relations have been strained over the safe haven that the Khalistan movement has found in Canada. The Khalistan movement refers to the movement for the creation of a Sikh nation called Khalistan out of India. For decades, the movement waged a bloody insurgency in India that finally ebbed in 1990s. While the insurgency ebbed in 1990s, the movement has strong influence in pockets abroad, including in Canada where it has found increasing tolerance particularly under Trudeau's government and his allies.
In a statement issued after Trudeau made the allegations public, India termed anti-Indian activities in Canada as "politically-condoned", meaning that the Indian government believes that such activities have support of the Canadian establishment.
The India-Canada tensions were also visible during the G20 Summit earlier this month where Trudeau was largely snubbed by India and Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a tense meeting with him, following which India released a chilling readout, saying "he [Modi] conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada".
"They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," said the readout further.
Following Trudeau's allegations, India issued an advisory warning of "politically-condoned" anti-India activities in Canada. The phrase "politically-condoned" reflects the support that the Khalistan movement and anti-India elements in Canada receive from Trudeau, his party and allies, and his government.
After reports suggested that Canadian allies snubbed Trudeau's request to mount a collective offensive on India, the Joe Biden administration said the United States is engaged with both India and Canada on the issues and looks forward to the completion of the investigation. Independent observers have, however, pointed out that the Canadian probe has little credibility now that Trudeau has already formed conclusions and has already expelled an Indian diplomat in the matter.