3 Articles: Canada and India: 1) Canada Told Allies Before Sharing Allegations About India Over B.C. Killing: Trudeau; 2) India Expels Canadian Diplomat After Canada Links Indian Agents To Sikh Leader Death; 3) India Suspends Visa Services In Canada Ask Rift Widens Between Countries

  1. Canada Told Allies Before Sharing Allegations About India Over B.C. Killing: Trudeau

Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Sep 19th, 2023

By Dylan Robertson in Ottawa

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau pushed back Tuesday on India’s denial of allegations that it played a role in the death of a Canadian citizen, which New Delhi blasted as “absurd and motivated.”

Yet while Trudeau is urging India to take the matter seriously, Liberals also say they hope to maintain normal ties with a country Ottawa has selected as a key partner in the Indo-Pacific. 

Trudeau revealed in the House of Commons on Monday that Canadian intelligence services are investigating “credible” information about “a potential link” between India’s government and the death of British Columbia Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Trudeau said Tuesday thatIndia’s government “needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness” but would not say whether it is co-operating.

“It is extremely serious and it has far-reaching consequences in international law,” he told reporters on Parliament Hill.

Trudeau said he waited until he was able to raise the issue with allies and with India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month before telling the public about the possible link.

“We wanted to make sure that we had a solid grounding in understanding what was going on in analysis and indeed in facts,” Trudeau said.

“We wanted to make sure we were taking the time to talk with our allies, to share what we knew. We wanted to make sure that we fully shared with the government of India, the seriousness and the depths of our preoccupations and indeed conclusions.”

On Monday,Ottawa ordered a senior Indian diplomat to leave Canada, and India responded by sending an unnamed Canadian diplomat packing, citing unspecified “interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters and their involvement in anti-India activities.”

India’s ministry of external affairs said after Trudeau’s announcement that it rejects the accusations, arguing they mean to distract from Sikh separatists in Canada that New Delhi argue pose a security risk.

“The inaction of the Canadian government on this matter has been a long-standing and continuing concern,” reads a statement from the ministry, which was posted before Trudeau’s comments on Tuesday morning.

A senior government source who is close to the prime minister said Trudeau was confident enough in the allegations that he opted to raise them directly with Modi in New Delhi.

The source, who was granted anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about the matter publicly, said Trudeau opted to share the news to clear the air in response to mounting questions from the media and rumours in diaspora communities about India’s involvement.

Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre said Trudeau ought to share more information about what led him to make his Monday statement in Parliament. He said the prime minister did not share more details with him than what he had said in the House of Commons.

“We need to see more facts. The prime minister hasn’t provided any facts,” he told reporters Tuesday on Parliament Hill.

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has written to the newly appointed head of the public inquiry on foreign interference, asking Justice Marie-Josée Hogue to include India in her probe. The Liberals have suggested her terms are wide enough to include any country as well as the Nijjar case.

“In my experience, as a Sikh-Canadian, there have always been suspicions that India was interfering in the democratic rights of Canadians,” Singh wrote in the letter. “Yesterday’s announcement by the prime minister confirms that these suspicions are valid.”

Global Affairs Canada would not disclose the name of the diplomat that India has decided to expel. Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Monday that Canada’s high commission has taken extra steps to protect its staff.

The United States, United Kingdom and Australia have all issued statements calling for the allegationsto be thoroughly probed.

“We are deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau yesterday,” the U.S. Embassy in Ottawa said in a statement.

“We remain in regular contact with our Canadian partners. It is critical that Canada’s investigation proceed and the perpetrators be brought to justice.”

Public Safety Minister Dominic LeBlanc had confirmed Monday that the head of Canada’s spy agency and Trudeau’s national security and intelligence adviser, Jody Thomas, both travelled to India recently to confront their counterparts about the issue.

Thomas’s predecessor, Vincent Rigby, said that would not have happened if Ottawa only had “a hunch or a gut feeling” about the intelligence.

“They have something, I suspect. I have a feeling it’s pretty concrete, and it’s enough to raise it to the most senior levels in the Indian government,” Rigby said in an interview.

He said Washington will likely support Canada in private, but will need to sort out how much it’s willing to upset New Delhi as the U.S. undertakes a “major charm offensive” to secure more trade with India.

Nijjar was shot outside his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C., on June 18. Members of the Sikh community have accused the Indian government of being behind the killing and attempting to silence voices advocating for an independent Sikh country.

LeBlanc said Tuesday that the RCMP has a plan to look after members of Canada’s Sikh community, and he has instructed CSIS to share any pertinent information about Nijjar’s death with police.

“We knew, as the prime minister has been saying for several weeks, that this news would at some point come out publicly. And the good news is that the RCMP has been developing plans for several weeks with their partners from other police forces,” LeBlanc said in French.

He added that it is the jurisdiction of police officials, not government ministers, to determine who should receive protection and how.

“I have every confidence in the RCMP based on my extensive conversations with their leadership over the last number of months that they have the resources necessary and the plans in place to protect Canadians,” LeBlanc saidin English.

Former foreign-affairs minister Marc Garneau said the situation is “quite an extraordinary event” and argued Trudeau needs to share more information if there’s any hope of salvaging a relationship with a country of increasing importance to Canada.

“Now that it’s in the public arena, the onus is very much on Canada to demonstrate unequivocally that its claim is based on factual evidence, that is irrefutable evidence that India won’t be able to deny,” Garneau said in a Tuesday interview on an unrelated topic.

Garneau said India regularly raised the issue of Sikh extremists with him while in office, and that Ottawa was aware of New Delhi’s interference in Canada back when its Indo-Pacific strategy was first being drafted.

“It’s always preferable to remain engaged, rather than close the door,” he said. But to “resume productive relations,” he said, “we need to resolve the extremely serious issue that’s at hand.”

Trudeau said he does not want to make things worse for relations with India.

“We are not looking to provoke or escalate. We are simply laying out the facts as we understand them, and we want to work with the government of India to lay everything clear.”

Emergency Preparedness Minister Harjit Sajjan suggested he hopes Canada can maintain normal relations with India despite the incident.

“Right now, we’re hopeful that the Indian government co-operates with the investigation. When it comes to all the other relationships that we have, we look forward to continuing as normal,” he said.

Sajjan, who is Sikh, pushed back on the Indian government’s contention that Sikh extremists have senior roles in Trudeau’s government.

“India’s been making those accusations for a very long time,” he said, encouraging reporters to “draw your own conclusions.”

Treasury Board President Anita Anand, the first Hindu person to become a federal cabinet minister, said it’s “a very difficult time” for South Asians of any religion, noting her parents are from India.

She urged people to “be prudent” and remain calm.

The National Council of Canadian Muslims is calling for non-partisan co-operation to uncover facts about the alleged “state-sponsored terrorism” and make sure nobody else is targeted. 

“This is an unprecedented attack on Canadian sovereignty, full stop,” the group’s head Stephen Brown told reporters.

2) India Expels Canadian Diplomat After Canada Links Indian Agents To Sikh Leader Death

Courtesy of Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Sep 19th, 2023

India struck back at Canada early Tuesday after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau linked agents of India’s government to the shooting death of a Sikh leader near Vancouver.

A statement from India’s Ministry of External Affairs says an unnamed senior Canadian diplomat has been asked to leave India within the next five days.

“The decision reflects Government of India’s growing concern at the interference of Canadian diplomats in our internal matters,” said the statement.

Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly said earlier on Monday that Canada was expelling India’s Pavan Kumar Rai, whom her department lists in its public registry as a diplomatic agent who heads up an Indian intelligence agency based in Ottawa.

Trudeau told the House of Commons on Monday that there is credibility to the allegations that Indian government agents played a role in the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

“Over the past number of weeks, Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen,” he said.

“Any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty. It is contrary to the fundamental rules by which free, open and democratic societies conduct themselves.”

Nijjar was killed in the parking lot of his gurdwara in Surrey, B.C. on June 18.

While Sikh community leaders in Canada have insisted the government of India was involved, police previously said they had not made any link to foreign interference.

The Indian government rejected allegations of involvement in Nijjar’s death, calling them “absurd and motivated.”

“Such unsubstantiated allegations seek to shift the focus from Khalistani terrorists and extremists, who have been provided shelter in Canada and continue to threaten India’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

India had issued an arrest warrant against Nijjar for his advocacy for a separate Sikh state in India’s Punjab region, which activists call Khalistan. India has long maintained that these activists undermine national security, though Canada insists its citizens have freedom of speech if they don’t incite violence.

Police in B.C. said in a statement late Monday that they were aware of Trudeau’s comments but were not in a position to discuss specifics about their investigation.

3) India Suspends Visa Services In Canada Ask Rift Widens Between Countries

Courtesy Barrie360.com and Canadian PressPublished: Sep 21st, 2023

India’s visa processing centre in Canada suspended services Thursday as a rift widened between the countries after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said India may have been involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen.

Trudeau told Parliament on Monday that there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination of Sikh independence activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who had been wanted by India for years and was gunned down in June outside the temple he led.

Canada also expelled an Indian diplomat, and India followed by expelling a Canadian diplomat on Tuesday. It called the allegations being investigated in Canada absurd and an attempt to shift attention from the presence of Nijjar and other wanted suspects in Canada.

“Important notice from Indian Mission: Due to operational reasons, with effect from 21 Sept. Indian visa services have been suspended till further notice,” the BLS Indian Visa Application Center in Canada said. It gave no further details. BLS is the agency that processes visa requests for India.

India’s External Affairs Ministry did not immediately comment.

The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said all its consulates in India are open and are continuing to provide services, but staff safety is being assessed.

“In light of the current environment where tensions have heightened, we are taking action to ensure the safety of our diplomats. With some diplomats having received threats on various social media platforms, Global Affairs Canada is assessing its staff complement in India,” it said in a statement.

It said Canada expects India to provide for the security of its diplomats and consular officers under the Vienna conventions.

In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited India, making them the fourth-largest group, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.

On Wednesday, India’s External Affairs Ministry issued an updated travel advisory urging its citizens travelling in Canada and especially those studying in the North American country to be cautious because of “growing anti−India activities and politically condoned hate−crimes.’’

Indians should also avoid going to venues in Canada where “threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose anti−India agenda,’’ the ministry said.

Nijjar was working to organize an unofficial referendum among the Sikh diaspora on independence from India at the time of his killing. He had denied India’s accusation that he was a terrorist.

The second stage of B.C. voting on whether a Sikh homeland should be established in India’s Punjab province is scheduled to be held on Oct. 29.

The Vancouver Police Department beefed up security outside India’s Consulate after Trudeau’s announcement this week.

Const. Tania Visintin, Vancouver police media relations officer, said in a statement Wednesday that police are “closely monitoring the situation.’’

“We’re doing significant work behind the scenes, which includes continuous risk assessments, with a goal of maintaining public safety and preventing violence,’’ Visintin said in an emailed statement.

Visintin said Vancouver police were not aware of any specific threats to Indian consular officials, but have increased their presence at the downtown Vancouver consulate.

Demands for an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan, started as an insurgency in India’s Punjab state in the 1970s that was crushed in an Indian government crackdown that killed thousands. The movement has since lost much of its political power but still has supporters in Punjab, where Sikhs form a majority, as well as among the sizable overseas Sikh diaspora.

India’s National Investigation Agency said Wednesday it has intensified its crackdown on Sikh insurgents operating in India.

It announced rewards of up to 1 million rupees (CAD$16,240) for information leading to the arrest of five insurgents, one of whom is believed to be based in neighbouring Pakistan.

The agency accused them of extorting money from businesses for a banned Sikh organization, the Babbar Khalsa International, and of targeted killings in India. “They also have established a network of operatives in various countries to further their terrorist activities in India,” it said in a statement, without naming any country.

India accuses Pakistan of supporting insurgencies in Kashmir and Punjab, a charge Islamabad denies.

Patricia Dent

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