Australia’s Foreign Minister, Penny Wong, in New York for the 78th session of the UN General Assembly, has spoken at a press conference about India’s diplomatic spat with Canada over the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accusation that individuals associated with the Indian government orchestrated the assassination of a prominent Sikh community leader in British Columbia back in June.
Speaking to the press in New York, Senator Wong said the reports of the Canadian PM allegations were ‘concerning and Australia is “monitoring these developments closely with our partners”.
India’s foreign ministry has rejected these allegations from Canada on Tuesday morning, deeming them “absurd” and politically motivated.
Journalist: Minister, what do you make of Justin Trudeau’s allegations that India was behind the killing of a Canadian citizen, and what implications do you believe this would have on the Five Eyes alliance and Australia’s relationship with India
Foreign Minister: Look, these are concerning reports, and I note that investigations are still underway, but obviously these are concerning reports, and as I’ve said, we are monitoring these developments closely with our partners, and we’ll continue to do so.
Journalist: You’ve raised this with India?
Foreign Minister: We have, Australia has raised these issues with our Indian counterparts, as you would expect us to do.
Journalist: Are you planning on raising it with Japan given that they are a member of the Quad and India as well?
Foreign Minister: Well, I’m sure you would not expect the Foreign Minister of any country to run a commentary on how and what is raised, in detail or what will be raised, but I would say to you, you know, Australia’s principal position is that we believe the sovereignty of all countries should be respected, we believe the rule of law should be respected, and our views as a matter of principle reflect those views.
Journalist: Do you have any concerns about foreign interference from India in Australia?
Foreign Minister: I think Australia is a robust democracy, and I think the Indian diaspora has a range of views, and you know, we have made clear in relation to democratic debate in Australia that the peaceful expression of different views is a key part of Australia’s democracy, and I think most Australians would agree with that.
Journalist: And just, when you say that Australia shared its concerns with India, how did you communicate that, and did Canada share information?
Foreign Minister: I would just say to you that we have been monitoring these developments with partners closely, we will continue to do so, and I will confirm that we have raised our concerns with India. I’m not going to go into any further detail on that.
Journalist: I was going to ask, is it true that the issue was privately raised by several senior officials [indistinct] countries for the G20?
Foreign Minister: Well, that’s ‑ I’ll leave you to ask that question, I’ll just refer to my previous answer. I understand why you ask it, and you will understand why I respond in the way I do.
Journalist: Minister, what guarantee of safety do you provide to Sikh Indians in Australia that they aren’t at risk themselves?
Foreign Minister: Well, I’d note that these allegations are still being investigated, so I would recognise that fact, but more broadly I would say this: we take the view as a government that Australian democracy is precious, that as a matter of principle, and as a matter of law Australians of whatever persuasion have a right to peaceful protest, and in all circumstances we reflect that right in our public statements and in our private conversations with other governments.
You would also know we have, as a Parliament, made very clear statements, but legislatively and as a matter of policy about the importance of Australian democracy being unaffected by external concerns.