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'Unfortunate that...': USISPF CEO Mukesh Aghi slams Trudeau's allegations against India in Khalistan row

Aghi warned that Canada will try to leverage the US to put pressure on India amid the row and it might impact the relations between Washington and New Delhi for some time. He also alleged Trudeau's remarks were for "his own political survival".

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Washington Published on: October 07, 2023 13:31 IST
US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) President
Image Source : PTI US India Strategic and Partnership Forum (USISPF) President Mukesh Aghi

The President and CEO of the US-India Strategic Partnership Forum (USISPF) Mukesh Aghi on Friday slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his bombshell allegations against India in the death of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, saying the issue was presented "without concrete evidence".

Tensions flared between India and Canada last month following Trudeau's allegations of "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India angrily rejected the allegations as "absurd" and "motivated".

In an exclusive interview with news agency PTI, Aghi said, "It’s unfortunate that an important issue was brought without any concrete evidence into the parliament and from there the relationship between the two nations has gone down."

He further emphasised the growing trade between the two countries, especially Canada investing $55 billion in India at the time when Trudeau made his allegations. He further warned that Canada will leverage the United States to put pressure on India in the ongoing dispute.

Aghi also said that the India-Canada diplomatic row may affect the India-US relationship, but the latter will grow 'deeper and broader" in the long term. "The US-India relationship is geopolitical. It is tied to economic issues and the Indian-American diaspora," he added.

'For his own political survival': Aghi on Trudeau's remarks

The USISPF President further remarked that Trudeau's allegations were driven by "domestic policies" and "his own political survival" given the support of the Sikh-dominated New Democratic Party. 

"There are two factors. One is domestic politics. The NDP, which supports Prime Minister Trudeau, is a Sikh dominated party. So, you have to have that vote coming in. So domestic politics took over, national interest. And that's a pity because you always drive national interest first before you drive domestic politics," he said.

"The second factor is that the conversation between PM Trudeau and PM Narendra Modi for the second time was not very warm and healthy. I think Trudeau felt upset about that and that also rolled into his statement in the parliament," Aghi claimed.

He also lamented the fact that only one accused was prosecuted in the bombing of Air India 182 flight in 1985, which killed over 300 people. The bombing was perpetrated by Khalistani terrorists.  "Completely shameful the process the way they handled it. I think as far as where it goes for India, I think yes, India will face some challenges in the short term, but in the long term I think India will keep on continuing to rise as an economic power and as a global power," he said.

'What's happening in Canada is not free speech'

The USISPF CEO further highlighted how Khalistani supporters were celebrating the assassination of former Indian PM Indira Gandhi, which does not constitute "free speech" and is instead trying to "target India itself".

"We (Canada) talk (about) Nijjar a simple plumber, but if you look at his background, he's a convict. And they talk about him using a machine gun in a shooting gallery itself. I think the story and the narrative from Canada is so different from the story and narrative from India's perspective. I think both countries have to sit down and find out and… deal with this," he said.

Aghi further said that attempts are being made by the progressive left in the US to defame PM Narendra Modi and the situation is being inflamed by China for personal benefits. "What we have seen is the progressive left, especially the media seems to project him (Modi) as a demagogue, basically not understanding that here is a government in the last almost nine and a half years has brought 300 million people out of poverty...  if it can derail the relationship between India and the US it is in the interest of China," he told PTI.

Not looking to escalate row with India: Trudeau

Meanwhile, Trudeau on Tuesday said that he is "not looking to escalate" the tensions with New Delhi and wants to have constructive relations. "We're not looking to escalate, as I've said, we're going to be doing the work that matters in continuing to have constructive relations with India through this extremely difficult time," CBC News quoted Trudeau as saying.

He further said that the dispute between both countries has made it "important for us to have diplomats on the ground working with the Indian government there to support Canadians and Canadian families." Trudeau asserted that his government was taking the matter extremely seriously and would attempt to engage "responsibly and constructively" with India.

(with PTI inputs)

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