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Trudeau says he went public with Sikh murder plot claims to ‘put a chill on India’

Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau has spoken out on why he went public with his damning allegations about the Indian government’s involvement in the killing of a Canadian Sikh citizen.

Mr Trudeau told the Canadian Press in an interview that he took the decision to “put a chill on India” and add an extra "level of deterrence" to keep Canadians safe.

In September, Mr Trudeau told the House of Commons that there was “credible evidence” against Indian agents who were allegedly involved in the 18 June killing of Canadian Sikh citizen Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was labelled a terrorist in India.

The Indian government denied the allegations as “absurd” and demanded sufficient evidence from Ottawa amid calls to cooperate into the investigation.

“We felt that all the quiet diplomacy and all the measures that we put in, and ensured that our security services put in to keep people safe in the community, needed a further level of deterrence, perhaps of saying publicly and loudly that we know, or we have credible reasons to believe, that the Indian government was behind this,” he said on Tuesday.

“And, therefore, put a chill on them continuing or considering doing anything like this,” he added.

Mr Trudeau said the Sikh community in Canada was worried about their safety and felt “they were vulnerable”.

A photograph of late temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen on a banner outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, British Columbia
A photograph of late temple president Hardeep Singh Nijjar is seen on a banner outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, British Columbia

Earlier this month the US Justice Department alleged the involvement of an unnamed Indian government official in a plot to assassinate Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, a US citizen, who lives in New York.

Unlike Canada, American prosecutors have spelled out the full details of murder-for-hire charges in an unsealed indictment and charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta, 52, in the case.

India said it took the US “inputs seriously”, and formed a high-level investigative committee to look into the matter.

Mr Trudeau said they would reveal the evidence in the same “fashion” as the US did with the foiled assassination bid.

Canada intends to reveal evidence “very much in the fashion the US did when we reach those points in the investigation”, he said.

Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)
Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

But he noted that US authorities started their investigation into the attempted murder earlier.

He also added that “there are different stakes involved” as their justice system has a different process.

Mr Truduea said that he raised the issue with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi during the G20 summit in New Delhi but that did not prove constructive. He accused India of waging an information war.

"We knew it would be difficult conversations, but we also knew that this was an important moment for India to be demonstrating its leadership on the world stage with the G20," Mr Trudeau said.

“They chose to attack us and undermine us with a scale of misinformation and disinformation in their media that was comical,” he added.

He also acknowledged for the first time that he chose to announce the allegations himself because “he expected the information would be eventually leaked through the media”.

Moments before Mr Trudeau’s speech in parliament, Canadian outlets The Globe and Mail broke the story.

FBI director Christopher Wray concluded his trip to India this week, aimed at boosting security cooperation and deepening the India-US partnership. But it comes in the wake of a major law enforcement issue between the two nations – one far more sinister and with the potential to cause cracks within that alliance.

Mr Wray held talks with the top officials of India’s federal investigative agencies, including National Investigation Agency (NIA) and Central Bureau of Investigation – the equivalent to the FBI.

India’s readout of the meeting said that Mr Wray underlined that terror attacks in the US and India “have changed the way in which nations respond to terror threats”.

He also stressed the need to take the partnership and cooperation between the two agencies “to the next level to deal with the constantly evolving challenges and threats of terrorism”.