The United States had helped the Canadian government with intelligence related to the death of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to a report.
The report comes at a time when India-Canada relations are at a new low after Canadian Prime Minister Justin 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. India has forcefully rejected the allegations and the two countries have since been locked in a series of diplomatic blows.
Nijjar was a designated terrorist associated with the Khalistan movement, which seeks to carve out a country for Sikhs called Khalistan out of India. He was the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), which is also a designated terrorist organisation. He was killed in June in Canada's British Columbia province.
US provided 'contextual' intelligence to Canada: Report
Amid high tensions between India and Canada, The New York Times has reported that the United States helped Canada with intelligence related to Nijjar's death, but added that main intelligence that Trudeau used to connect the killing with India was collected by Canada only.
The US intelligence shared with Canada provided the "context" to the Canadian investigators and came after the death.
The NYT reported, "In the aftermath of the killing, U.S. intelligence agencies offered their Canadian counterparts context that helped Canada conclude that India had been involved. Yet what appears to be the 'smoking gun', intercepted communications of Indian diplomats in Canada indicating involvement in the plot, was gathered by Canadian officials, allied officials said."
Earlier, it had been reported that a 'Five Eyes' partner had provided Canada with intelligence related to Nijjar's killing. The Five Eyes is an intelligence-sharing alliance comprising the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. This is the first time it is being reported that it was the United States who had provided intelligence.
The report clarifies that the core of the intelligence that Canada claims to have, the intercepted communications of Indian diplomats and officials, was gathered by Canada itself.
The United States and Canada are among the closest partners and are allies under multiple frameworks, such as Five Eyes and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). They have regular intelligence-sharing mechanisms through which the United States shares intercepts with Canada, but the report says the intelligence related to Nijjar's killing was shared specifically and separately.
The NYT also reported that the United States did not have advance knowledge of the alleged plot against Nijjar and, if there were such information, it would have been shared with Canada as per the 'duty to warn' doctrine the countries have.
The India-Canada tussle puts US in a tough spot
The ongoing India-Canada tensions have put the United States in a difficult position.
On the one hand is Canada, a treaty ally and one of the oldest and closest partner. On the other hand is India, a partner critical to current and future US strategic interests of containing China. In the past few decades, the India-US relations have been on a constant upwards trajectory and have expanded to include every field from defence and security to technology, space, economy, infrastructure development, etc.
So far, while the US officials have said they are in close contact with Canada and India over the matter, and have said that there is no exception to India or anyone else in such matters, they have tried to keep their distance.
Just two months ago, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was in the United States on a state visit when the Joe Biden administration rolled out a red carpet for him. The visit has been termed as the most consequential in the India-US relationship.
At such a time, the India-Canada tussle has put the United States in a tough spot.
Years of India-Canada tensions over Khalistani terrorism
The India-Canada relations had been strained for years over the safe haven that the Khalistan movement has found in Canada and the inaction on part of the Canadian government, particularly under Justin Trudeau, against such anti-India elements.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a separate nation for Sikhs 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 found strong support in pockets abroad, including in Canada that has become a safe haven for the Khalistan movement and other organised crime syndicates directed at India.
The India-Canada tensions were also visible during the G20 Summit earlier this month when Trudeau was largely snubbed by India and had a tense meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a particularly harsh readout, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said that 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.
The Trudeau government, in addition to making the allegations against India, also expelled a senior Indian diplomat posted in Canada and outed him as an Indian intelligence official. In a tit-for-tat response, the Indian government also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat understood to be a Canadian intelligence official.
Moreover, the Indian government has ordered the downsizing of the Canadian missions in India and has suspended visa services for Canadian nationals. There are also reports that the Indian government is in the process of cancelling the Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards, which are considered to be closest to 'dual nationality' as per Indian laws. The OCI card holders have lifetime vias and the card also serves as a precursor for citizenship at times.