US says India should cooperate in probe of Sikh man's killing in Canada

A sign outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple is seen after the killing on its grounds in June 2023 of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada September 18, 2023. REUTERS/Chris Helgren

(Reuters) -The White House is "deeply concerned" about allegations that Indian agents were potentially involved in the murder of a Sikh separatist leader in Canada and encourages India to cooperate in any investigation, national security spokesman John Kirby said on Wednesday.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Monday that domestic intelligence agencies were actively pursuing credible allegations tying New Delhi's agents to the shooting of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, 45, in British Columbia in June.

"We are deeply concerned" Kirby said of the allegations.

He added, "We encourage India to fully cooperate."

India Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has categorically rejected Canada's suspicions that Indian agents had links to the murder.

The dispute deals a fresh blow to diplomatic ties that have been fraying for years, with New Delhi unhappy over Sikh separatist activity in Canada.

Kirby said that news reports that the U.S. rejected or brushed off Canada's allegations are untrue.

"There's been some press speculation out there ... that the United States rebuffed Canada in terms of talking about their investigation, and I just want to stress that those reports are just flatly false, untrue," Kirby said.

The Washington Post reported on Tuesday that weeks before Trudeau's allegations against India, Canada had asked its closest allies, including the U.S., to publicly condemn the Sikh separatist leader's killing, but the requests were turned down.

The killing of Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, was raised privately by several senior officials of the Five Eyes intelligence sharing nations in the weeks before this month's Group of 20 summit in New Delhi, the Washington Post had reported. The Five Eyes alliance of intelligence sharing includes Australia, New Zealand, the UK, the U.S. and Canada.

The Canadian foreign ministry also said that claims that "Canada asked allies to publicly condemn the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, and were subsequently rebuffed, are false."

(Reporting By Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Leslie Adler and Timothy Gardner and Bill Berkrot)

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