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Canada says relations with India ‘important’

Describing relationship with India as ‘important’, Canada’s defence minister Bill Blair Sunday said Toronto will continue to pursue partnerships like Indo-Pacific strategy while the investigation of the killing of Khalistani extremist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar will continue, PTI reported.

“We understand that this can be, and has proven to be, a challenging issue with respect to our relationship with India,” Blair was quoted as saying by Global News.

The Canadian defence minister said the Indo-Pacific strategy was still a critical one for the country and has led to an increased military presence in the region and commitments for further patrol capabilities.

The strategy commits $492.9 million over five years toward those military priorities, out of a total of nearly $2.3 billion over the same period, the report said.

“But at the same time, we have a responsibility to defend the law, defend our citizens, and at the same time make sure that we conduct a thorough investigation and get to the truth,” he said.

If the allegations are proven true, Blair said “there is a very significant concern that Canada will have with respect to the violation of our sovereignty in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.”

Tensions flared between the two countries following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explosive allegations of a “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.

New Delhi rejected the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated” and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa’s expulsion of an Indian official over the case.

Canada had been seeking deeper trade, defence and immigration ties with India before the “credible intelligence,” as Trudeau called it, was first raised, Global News reported.

India asked Canada to downsize its diplomatic staff in the country, arguing that there should be parity in strength and rank equivalence in the mutual diplomatic presence.

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Updated: 25 Sep 2023, 02:00 AM IST

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