—– FS says “we are aware of the nature of our eastern neighbour, we know what they are capable of”
—– Adds “India’s terrorism in Canada is not a matter of surprise for Pakistan”
—– Asserts India committing State sponsored terrorism in IoK
—– Informs Interim PM will raise all issues including Kashmir in UNGA address
New York: Foreign Secretary Syrus Qazi has said Pakistan is not surprised by the Canadian accusation of Indian involvement in a separatist Sikh leader’s killing on its soil and the world must recognise the ways of the country it supposedly considered “an indispensable ally”. Qazi’s remarks came during a Tuesday night press briefing at the United Nations Mission in New York, where he is accompanying interim Prime Minister Anwaarul Haq Kakar to attend the 78th UN General Assembly session.
“We are aware of the nature of our eastern neighbour, we know what they are capable of … so it is not a surprise for us. “We caught [one of their] serving naval intelligence officers on our soil. He is in our custody and admitted that he came here to create instability and spread evil,” he said when asked for a comment on the allegations levelled against India. The allegation, centring on the killing of Sikh separatist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar in June in Canada, was made on Monday, with Ottawa expelling India’s top intelligence agent over the matter.
Nijjar supported a Sikh homeland in the form of an independent Khalistani state and was designated by India as a “terrorist” in July 2020. He had denied those charges, according to the World Sikh Organisation of Canada, a nonprofit organisation that says it defends the interests of Canadian Sikhs.
Canada said it was “actively pursuing credible allegations” linking Indian government agents to the murder of the Sikh separatist leader.
Meanwhile, PM Justin Trudeau said in an emergency statement to the House of Commons that any involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen was “an unacceptable violation of our sovereignty”.
He has also demanded that India treat with “utmost seriousness” the bombshell revelation of its probe into the murder.
In response, India expelled on Tuesday a Canadian diplomat with five days’ notice to leave the country.
New Delhi also dismissed the Canadian accusation as “absurd and motivated” and urged it instead to take legal action against anti-Indian elements operating from its soil.
Commenting on the matter, Syrus said, “There must be some truth to the Canadian premier’s allegation, that’s why they levelled it.” He added that the situation was developing, “but going by our experience, we are not surprised”.
Answering a follow-up question, the foreign secretary maintained that most of the time, Indian involvement was found in instability in Pakistan. “Kulbhushan Jadhav] is a living example of it, and the world needs to know,” he added, referring to the former Indian naval officer who was arrested in Pakistan on March 3, 2016 and said in a confessional video he was in the country for “intelligence gathering for Indian agencies”.
In response to a question about conflicts with India, Qazi refused that Pakistan’s responses had been defensive.
“If there is any country that understands India correctly, that’s us. And we are the only country in many respects that is not afraid of India,” he further stated, highlighting that Pakistan had been resolutely protecting its freedom against a rival country 60 times bigger in size.
“We have been doing this for the past 70 years … and will do it again when the need arises.”
Again referring to the India-Canada row, he added, “This is no surprise for us, but the world must realise what are the ways of the country they have supposedly made their indispensable ally.”
The row over the Sikh leader’s killing is the latest in an escalating row between India and Canada.
There were signs of a brewing crisis before PM Trudeau revealed the probe into Nijjar’s death on Monday.
Modi had expressed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” during his meeting with Trudeau at the G20.
Canada had also suspended negotiations for a free-trade agreement with India, and last week its trade minister cancelled a trip to the country planned for October.
India warns citizens against Canada travel
Today, India warned its citizens against visiting parts of Canada, the latest salvo in a diplomatic row over allegations that New Delhi was involved in Nijjar’s killing.
Without explicitly referring to the row, India’s foreign ministry said it was concerned for the safety of its citizens in Canada because of “politically condoned hate crimes and criminal violence”.
“Threats have particularly targeted Indian diplomats and sections of the Indian community who oppose the anti-India agenda,” a ministry statement said.
“Indian nationals are therefore advised to avoid travelling to regions and potential venues in Canada that have seen such incidents.”
The advisory did not name specific cities or locations for Indians to avoid.
India’s opposition dismisses Canada’s suspicions
Meanwhile, India’s main opposition Congress party backed the government’s rejection of Canada’s suspicions that New Delhi’s agents had links to Nijjar’s murder, and urged a stand against threats to the country’s sovereignty.
Congress spokespersons backed what they called India’s “fight against terrorism” and criticised Trudeau.
“Trudeau’s defence of declared terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar is absolutely shameful and shows how much the present Canadian regime is in bed with Khalistani sympathisers,” Abhishek Manu Singhvi, a senior Congress lawmaker, posted on social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Sikh separatists demand that their homeland “Khalistan”, meaning “the land of the pure”, be created out of Punjab. Its creation was the goal of a bloody Sikh insurgency in the 1980s and 1990s in India’s northern state of Punjab during which tens of thousands were killed.
As the ruling party at the time, Congress led the fight against the separatists and eventually suppressed the campaign, but New Delhi remains wary of any revival.
“Our country’s interests and concerns must be kept paramount at all times,” Jairam Ramesh, the chief spokesperson of Congress, said in a posting on X.
“The Indian National Congress has always believed that our country’s fight against terrorism has to be uncompromising, especially when terrorism threatens India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity.”
The insurgency also took the lives of key Congress leaders prime minister Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984, and Punjab chief minister Beant Singh, who was killed in a bomb blast by Sikh separatists in 1995.
’Shocked, but not surprised
A representative of the World Sikh Organisation of Canada, Mukhbir Singh, has said his countrymen may have been “shocked” by Trudeau’s assertion “but it was no surprise to the Sikh community”.
“For decades, India has targeted Sikhs in Canada with espionage, disinformation and now murder,” he alleged.
Balraj Singh Nijjar, son of the slain leader, said: “It was just a matter of time for when the truth would come out.”
He added, referring to government authorities: “Hopefully, you can take this a step further and get specific individuals.”
The head of Canada’s New Democratic Party, Jagmeet Singh, an ally of Trudeau, called for the inclusion of India in a probe launched in September of alleged interference in Canadian affairs by other countries, especially China.
“In my experience, as a Sikh Canadian, there have always been suspicions that India was interfering in the democratic rights of Canadians. Yesterday’s announcement confirms that these suspicions are valid,” Singh said.