New Delhi: The Canadian government has both human and signal intelligence involving Indian officials, including diplomats posted in Canada, to link them to the death of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, according to Canadian media reports.
The public broadcaster CBC quoted government sources as stating that based on a month-long investigation into Nijjar’s death, the Canadian government had amassed both “human and signals intelligence”.
“That intelligence includes communications involving Indian officials themselves, including Indian diplomats present in Canada, say Canadian government sources,” the article said.
CBC further claimed that some of the intelligence was “provided by an unnamed ally in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance”. The Five Eyes intelligence sharing network consists of the US, the UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.
The news agency Associated Press, following up on the CBC report, said an unnamed Canadian official revealed similar details to it. The official said allegations of India’s “involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally”.
The report added that Canadian officials went to India on several occasions “seeking cooperation in the investigation”, with Canada’s National Security and Intelligence Adviser Jody Thomas staying in India for four days in mid-August, then again for five days this month during the G-20 summit.
The Canadian prime minister had raised the matter of Nijjar’s killing during his short and tense meeting with PM Narendra Modi on the last day of the G-20 summit on September 10.
“Canadian sources say that, when pressed behind closed doors, no Indian official has denied the bombshell allegation at the core of this case — that there is evidence to suggest Indian government involvement in the assassination of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil,” said the CBC report.
On Monday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in Parliament that Canadian agencies were “actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar”.
Nijjar, who became a Canadian citizen in 2007, is described by India as a pro-Khalistani terrorist. He was shot dead outside a gurudwara in Surrey on June 18.
India immediately dismissed the allegations as “motivated and absurd”. It also announced the suspension of visa operations in all its missions in Canada. The Canadian high commission also said that it would send back staff due to security threats on social media, but India claimed that it was being done due to New Delhi seeking mutual parity on diplomatic representation.
The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson also told reporters that New Delhi has told Ottawa that it was “willing to look at any specific information that is provided to us”. “But so far we have not received any such specific information,” he said on Thursday afternoon in New Delhi.
He had also dubbed Canada as a “safe haven for terrorists”, a term that was only used for Pakistan so far.
Speaking in New York on Thursday, Trudeau reiterated the allegations and suggested that the evidence would emerge from an eventual legal process.
“We have an independent justice system and robust processes that will follow their course and we call upon the Government of India to engage with us to move forward on getting to the truth of this matter,” he said on the sidelines of the UN general assembly.
Trudeau said that the decision to share these allegations “was not done lightly” but “with the utmost seriousness”.
Meanwhile, the UK newspaper Financial Times reported that US President Joe Biden and other Western leaders had “expressed concern” about Canada’s allegation that Indian government officials were involved in Nijjar’s killing.
“Three people familiar with the discussions at the summit said several members of the Five Eyes… raised the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar with Modi. One said Biden felt it was important to address the issue directly with his Indian counterpart,” FT wrote.
White House backs Canada, no direct condemnation of India
There was no clarity from The White House on whether Biden had raised the matter directly.
However, US national security advisor Jake Sullivan came out strongly to back Canada, but again without directly condemning India. He said that he had “seen in the press some efforts to try to drive a wedge between the United States and Canada on this issue”.
A Washington Post report had earlier claimed that some of the Five Eyes countries, including the US, had rebuffed the proposal by Canada to issue a joint statement condemning India. This article was widely picked up in the Indian and Canadian media as a sign that the US was not supporting its northern neighbour. While the Canadian government had denied that any such proposal was made, a US NSC spokesperson later strongly dismissed the report on Wednesday as “false”.
“We have deep concerns about the allegations, and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account. That is what the United States has stood for from the moment this emerged in public, and we will continue to stand for that until this fully plays its way out,” Sullivan said in a White House briefing on Thursday in Washington.
When asked whether the US had any evidence to support Canadian claims, Sullivan demurred. “I’m not going to speak to either intelligence or law enforcement matters from this podium. I will let that process play out. We are in, as I said before, continuous communication and consultation with the Canadian government. And we will remain so as we go forward”.
He also added that the US has also “been and will be in contact with the Indians at high levels on this issue”.
Both Washington and Canberra have asked India to join the investigation.
While he didn’t condemn India, Sullivan reiterated that the White House was taking the allegation “seriously”.
“It’s something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country. There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this. Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles. And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process,” he said.