KARACHI: State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller dodged questions regarding the US policy on Khalistan, maintaining that a “full and fair investigation” should be conducted into the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Miller, when asked about the official stance of the US about the Khalistan referendum organised by the US-based group Sikhs for Justice, said: “Let me take that one back as well.”
The spokesperson, during a press conference at the White House, was again asked by the same journalist about India labelling another Khalistani leader and US citizen, Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, as a terrorist and a most wanted individual as well as about his safety following his concerns about being the Indian government’s next target after Nijjar.
“I don’t have any specific comment on that other than to say, as the Secretary noted in comments he made on Friday, transnational repression would be a concern for us anywhere in the world.”
Miller said the US had made its aforementioned policy clear on a number of occasions. He later talked about Nijjar’s killing, which Canada Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged was a result of India’s involvement, raising questions on the Narendra Modi-led government’s tactics to silence dissent on foreign soil.
“We have noted the allegations by Prime Minister Trudeau and we are quite concerned by them, and they are such concerning allegations that we think there ought to be a full and fair investigation,” he said, responding to a question regarding India’s allegation of Canada being a “safe haven of terrorists”.
While Canada, he added, had shared its commitment to ensure a thorough probe, the US also believed the “Indian government should cooperate with it”.
Another query directed towards Miller was about the impact of the Nijjar episode on US-India relations.
“We are obviously quite concerned about the situation in Canada. We’ve cooperated closely with our Canadian counterparts, and we have urged India to cooperate in that investigation and we’ll continue to do so,” he said.
When asked if Congresswoman Ilhan Omar had requested a briefing to ascertain if India was involved in acts like Nijjar’s killing in the US as well, Miller denied any knowledge of such a briefing.
He maintained that India remains an important partner of the United States. “We work with them on a number of issues. But of course we — on this matter, we urge them to cooperate with the Canadian investigation,” the spokesperson added.