In the latest round of sparring between India and Canada over the killing of Khalistani separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia last June, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said that the Indian government had told its Canadian counterpart that it was not its “policy“ to engage in such acts.
Mr. Jaishankar added that Canada had a “very permissive” environment as far as secessionist activity was concerned.
“We told the Canadians that this is not the Government of India’s policy,” Mr. Jaishankar said about the allegations of India’s involvement in Nijjar’s death. The Canadians were also told that if they had any specific information, the government “was open to looking at it”, the Minister added.
Mr. Jaishankar was speaking at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, moderated by Kenneth Juster, a former U.S. Ambassador to India.
Canada’s permissive environment
Seeking to provide context to the situation, Mr. Jaishankar said that Canada had seen significant amounts of “organised crime relating to secessionist forces”, that is, supporters of India-related secessionist movements, such as the Khalistani cause.
“We have actually been badgering the Canadians,” he said. “We have given them a lot of information about organised crime leadership, which operates out of Canada.” The Minister added that India had made several extradition requests of Canada.
“Our concern is that it’s really been very permissive because of political reasons,” Mr. Jaishankar said, adding that India’s diplomats have been threatened and its consulates attacked. He noted that there has been interference in India’s politics, often justified on the grounds of concerns about democracy.
Canada and India have exchanged diplomatic fire over the past week, requiring each other to downsize their missions and exchanging sharp words. Canadian government officials had, even as recently as Tuesday, said that they were concerned about foreign interference in Canada’s politics.
Asked for a comment on the reported sharing of intelligence between Five Eyes countries on Nijjar’s killing, and reports that the United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) had warned certain persons about threats to their lives after the incident, Mr. Jaishankar said, “I’m not part of the Five Eyes.“ He added, “I’m certainly not part of the FBI.”
The Five Eyes is an intelligence alliance comprising Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
When asked if he was provided with any evidence by the Canadian government linking Indian government agents to Nijjar’s alleged killing, especially evidence of intercepted communications, Mr. Jaishankar did not clearly confirm or deny whether he had seen such documents. “Are you asking if the Canadians gave us documents?” he said.
When asked again if the Canadians had given him or the Indian government a document regarding India’s intercepted diplomatic communications, he said, “I have said that if somebody gives us specific or relevant information, we’re prepared to look at it.”
Mr. Jaishankar was again pressed on whether he had received the evidence of purported intercepted communications. “If I had, would I not be looking at it?” he said.
He was pressed further for a “yes” or “no”, at which point Mr. Juster, the moderator, intervened.