India ‘convicted’ before investigation completed: Indian envoy on Canada’s allegations over Nijjar’s killing

Mr. Verma's remarks came during an interview with CTV News, Canada's largest privately owned television network

Updated - November 26, 2023 05:16 pm IST

Published - November 26, 2023 02:56 pm IST - Ottawa

India was absolutely and decidedly not involved in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar said India’s High Commissioner here Sanjay Kumar Verma. File

India was absolutely and decidedly not involved in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar said India’s High Commissioner here Sanjay Kumar Verma. File

India was “absolutely” and “decidedly” not involved in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada and Ottawa has "convicted" New Delhi even before the completion of the investigation, India's High Commissioner here Sanjay Kumar Verma has said.

Mr. Verma's remarks came during an interview with CTV News, Canada's largest privately owned television network.

Canada and India witnessed strains in ties following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's allegations in September of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020. India has rejected Mr. Trudeau's allegations as "absurd" and "motivated".

During the interview which will be aired on Sunday, Mr. Verma was asked why India was not cooperating with Canada in the investigation. To this, he said, "...even without an investigation being concluded, India was convicted. Is that the rule of law?" Mr. Verma asked.

When asked how India was convicted, Mr. Verma replied: "Because India was asked to cooperate. And if you look at the typical criminal terminology, when someone asks us to cooperate which means that you have already been convicted, and you better cooperate. So we took it in a very different interpretation. But we always said that if there is anything specific and relevant, and communicated to us, we will look into it. And that had been said from day one. So we have never said, of course, we have not used the word cooperate, because we feel that's humiliating. But we have always said, that gives us something specific and relevant, and we’ll look into it," he added.

Mr. Verma insisted India was “absolutely” and “decidedly” not involved in the killing of Nijjar in Canada.

"And what we have said at that time as well, that this is a motivated and absurd allegation. And this is still an allegation. Whether we call it a credible allegation, that's the choice of word, but it's an allegation. So from the Indian government’s side, I can assure you and your viewers that there was no government hand in the shooting of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil, as it is always called," he said.

"We are a country of rule of law, and all the freedoms and everything has been given in the Indian Constitution, which was in 1950, when we adopted our Constitution. So they are our pillars. (We) will not go beyond that. So, therefore, what I feel is that the space which is available, on some pretext or other to these elements, needs to be evaluated," he said.

Mr. Verma said India’s “main concern” in its relations with Canada remains that “some Canadian citizens are using Canadian soil to launch attacks on (India’s) sovereignty and territorial integrity,” referring to the Sikh separatist movement.

"Most of the known criminals and terrorists who are in Canada from Khalistani mindset … many of them are running their own gangs in India. They are doing drug trafficking. They are running arms. They are running guns. They are running human trafficking activities," Mr. Verma said.

"Therefore, although their activities are here, it has crossed the borders. As long as there's a domestic issue in Canada, how do we care? But it has crossed the border that, unfortunately, has reached India, where a chief minister of state was killed by one of those who started these activities from Canada," he said.

He added from that “core issue” come “security concerns” for Indian diplomats and officials working in Canada, himself included.

Later, when asked whether he is overblowing the risk Sikh separatists pose for domestic political advantage in India, the high commissioner said his government has presented “documentation” to the Canadian government “through a mutually agreed channel” to prove Sikh separatists living in Canada are engaging in criminal activity in both countries.

"These are red corner notices, which went through the Interpol. And by the way, one of the recording notices was for Mr Nijjar, who was shot down. So we have shared all these things and Interpol certainly will not forward anything without the evidence being submitted. So we have given all the documentation that we had and I hope to hear back from Canada soon. So in India, there is no traction. But we are treating these guys like terrorists, not as separatists," he said.

They are terrorists because they are raising their funds in Canada, sending it across to the gangsters and gangs in India, who are doing illegal activities in India, he said, adding: "So our main concern is not the separatism, but they being terrorists."

When suggested that Sikh separatists holding a referendum in Canada is not hate speech, Mr. Verma replied: "See, the referendum, if you do it for Canada domestically, I'm fine. How are you allowing your citizens to do a referendum to bifurcate India? "..So if they are using Canadian soil to challenge the territorial integrity of India, which international law in the world will support that?" he asked.

Responding to a question about India resuming the electronic visa services for Canadians after suspending all visa services for nearly two months, the Indian envoy said, "We did a continuous evaluation of the situation. And during the last evaluation, we came to the conclusion that the security situation is relatively better than what it used to be when we suspended the visa services. And therefore we decided to resume e-visa services."

Mr. Verma also said that both governments were in talks over issues affecting bilateral relations.

"There's a lot of conversation going on, a lot of dialogue between the two governments, and I feel that most of it is very constructive. And therefore I would say that, yes, the relationship is better than it was a couple of months back. And it's moving more towards more and more dialogue, and probably taking it to the next step," Mr. Verma said.

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