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Nijjar Row: Winston Peters Wades Into India-Canada Conflict

Left to right: Hardeep Singh Nijjar, New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters

Navigating the delicate diplomatic situation arising from the India-Canada dispute over the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, New Zealand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, Winston Peters, stated on Tuesday his South Pacific nation upholds the rule of law as much as it respects India's territorial integrity. New Zealand, a member of the Five Eyes alliance, has been implicated in Canadian PM Justin Trudeau's claim of Indian involvement in the Vancouver-area killing of Khalistani Hardeep Singh Nijjar last year, based on shared intelligence.

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The Indian Weekender reached out to the Deputy PM's office for a comment, Peters' office said
"New Zealand’s position on the allegations remains unchanged - if they are proven correct then that would be of serious concern. The Minister’s point is that this is an ongoing criminal investigation. It needs to run its course before clear conclusions can be drawn".

In the midst of growing apprehensions about an expanding Chinese presence in the Pacific Islands, Peters also commended India's efforts to strengthen relationships in the region. Speaking to TOI ahead of his meeting with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar, Peters clarified that while New Zealand is not directly involved in the India-Canada dispute, the country staunchly defends the rule of law and firmly believes in sovereignty, particularly territorial sovereignty.

As the two nations explore enhanced defense and security ties, Peters is scheduled to meet NSA Ajit Doval on Wednesday. Unlike the US and UK, fellow members of the English-speaking Five Eyes, New Zealand has rarely commented on the issue. The only public statement, coming from then Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta in September last year, expressed serious concern if the claims against India were proven true.

Addressing the broader challenge to the international rules-based order, Peters, serving his third term as foreign minister, highlighted a shared sense of concern about the multilateral security environment, which he sees as a unifying factor among nations. Peters expressed interest in expanding defense personnel in the region, emphasizing the new centre-right government's aim to build a trust-based partnership with India.

Peters found encouragement in India's growing engagement in the Pacific Islands and expressed surprise at China's reaction to New Zealand's indication of joining the non-nuclear pillar of AUKUS during the Australia-New Zealand 2+2 dialogue earlier in the year. Describing New Zealand as a significant player in the Pacific, he applauded the country's cooperative reputation with Pacific nations. Peters encouraged collaboration among like-minded nations, citing collective efforts as more effective in assessing the development needs of the islands. As a South Pacific nation, New Zealand maintains robust political and economic ties with other Pacific States.

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