The Canadian government had been looking into the alleged involvement of Indian intelligence agencies in the country for years before the death of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to a report.
Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau claimed that there were "credible allegations of a potential link" of the Indian government with the killing of Nijjar in June in Canada's British Columbia province. The allegation and the subsequent exchange of escalatory blows between the two countries has plunged the India-Canada relationship to an all-time low.
Nijjar was a designated terrorist who was also a head of a gurudwara. He was the chief of Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), which is also a designated terrorist organisation.
It is in such circumstances that a report has claimed that the Canadian government had been looking into the role of Indian intelligence agencies in the country since at least 2018, when Trudeau made his first visit to India which turned out to be huge embarrassment for him.
For a long time, the India-Canada relations have been strained over the safe haven that the Khalistan movement, Khalistani terrorists, and organised crime syndicates have found in the country. The tensions have increased since Trudeau came to power as such anti-India elements have found increased acceptance and patronage under his government, whose ministers and allies have often been soft with these elements.
The Khalistan movement seeks to carve out a separate nation for Sikhs out of India called Khalistan. The movement waged a bloody insurgency in India for decades and finally ebbed in the 1990s. While the movement ebbed in the 1990s, it has found strong pockets of influence abroad, particularly in Canada, from where it has continued to indulge in anti-India activities.
What does the report say?
The Canadian intelligence agencies had conveyed suspicions about the purported Indian involvement in Canadian affairs before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's disastrous visit to India in 2018, according to Newslaundry.
The report published by Newslaundry cites a Canadian parliamentary report that says that the Canadians in 2018 were looking into three areas: 1) Allegations of Indian interference in Canada; 2) The presence of Jaspal Atwal at an event hosted by Trudeau in India; 3) The "use of intelligence".
Trudeau's 2018 visit to India was widely criticised as a diplomatic disaster as he was largely snubbed by the Narendra Modi government and the Congress-led Punjab government at the time. His antics, such as dressing in fancy wedding-type dresses and breaking into very poor bhangra-like dance moves, were also a subject of international mockery. The reason for India subbing Trudeau was the safe haven that the Khalistan movement had found in Canada. The major embarrassment for Trudeau, however, was the presence of Jaspal Atwal, a man convicted of attempting to assassinate a Punjab minister in Canada, at an event hosted by him. Photos of Atwal also surfaced with Trudeau's wife.
Newslaundry reported that the Canadian 2018 report, prepared by the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP), delved into" 2,400 pages of documents, including intelligence assessment documents and emails between government departments" to come to its conclusions. The conclusions, like large parts of the report, remain redacted.
The 50-page report of the NSICOP is available on the committee's website in redacted form.
While the 2018 report is redacted, details related to the Canadian investigations into the purported Indian role in Canada have trickled lately in media reports. Canadian investigative journalist Sam Cooper last week reported that the Canadian intelligence agency Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had planned to shut down an alleged Indian operation in the Vancouver area related to the Sikh community.
"But Ottawa blocked CSIS’s operation due to 'political sensitivity' and fears it would impact Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s upcoming trip to India, the top secret June 2019 report says. And so, the Indian diplomat in Vancouver targeted by CSIS continued to run his networks 'unabated'," reported Cooper, who runs the news website The Bureau.
Cooper further reported that the CSIS had identified two Indian officials engaging in such activities.
"CSIS alleged two specific Indian diplomats were responsible: an intelligence liaison named Parag Jain posted in Ottawa, and 'Amar Jit Singh', the Consul at the Indian Consulate in Vancouver, who was also carrying out undeclared intelligence activities," reported Cooper, adding that Singh's alleged role was related to "recruiting sources and agents to infiltrate, monitor and co-opt Sikh diaspora communities".
Everything that has happened over the past week
After Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar with the Indian government, the two countries have been locked in a series of to and fro actions.
After Trudeau made the claim in the parliament, his government expelled a senior Indian diplomat posted in Canada and outed him as an Indian intelligence official. In a tit for tat reaction, the Indian government also expelled a Canadian diplomat posted in India understood to be from the Canadian intelligence agency.
India forcefully rejected Trudeau's allegations and said that it is in fact Canadian government and political class that supports anti-Indian activities on their soil.
India also suspended visa services for Canadians and ordered the downsizing of Canadian mission in India.
Following Trudeau's allegations, India issued an advisory warning of "politically-condoned" anti-India activities in Canada. The phrase "politically-condoned" reflects the support that the Khalistan movement and anti-India elements in Canada receive from Trudeau, his party and allies, and his government.
The India-Canada tensions were also visible during the G20 Summit earlier this month when Trudeau was largely snubbed by India and had a tense meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. In a particularly harsh readout, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) said that Modi "conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada".
"They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship. The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats," said the readout further.