Is the leak to CBC News about human and signals intelligence in Nijjar killing a subtle warning to India?

By Mayank Chhaya-

The leak to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) News that Ottawa has human and signals intelligence implicating India in the killing of the Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar is clearly meant to be a less than subtle warning to New Delhi not to escalate bilateral tensions.

CBC News has reported that the Canadian government has “amassed both human and signals intelligence in a months-long investigation” that show India’s involvement in the killing.

“That intelligence includes communications involving Indian officials themselves, including Indian diplomats present in Canada, say Canadian government sources,” CBC News said.

The fact that the claim has not come directly from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau or any of his colleagues but via a media leak shows that Ottawa is bent upon forcing New Delhi’s hand.

CBC News also said that 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.”

That is deeply problematic for India even though so far it is just a media leak. However, as it is understood by both sides these are tactics of the Trudeau government to gradually ramp up the issue to a point where the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi feels compelled to make a significant comment.

The CBC story also said something that India would be watching closely. “The intelligence did not come solely from Canada. Some was provided by an unnamed ally in the Five Eyes intelligence alliance,” it said. The Five Eyes alliance consists of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States. It is not inconceivable that the unnamed ally to have provided some intelligence is the United States given its extraordinary ability to surveil globally.

It is in this context that what U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said yesterday assumes importance. “I firmly reject the idea that there is a wedge between the U.S. and Canada. We have deep concerns about the allegations and we would like to see this investigation carried forward and the perpetrators held to account,” he said.

Sullivan said Washington is working closely with Ottawa on the issue. “It is a matter of concern for us. It is something we take seriously. It is something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country,” he said.

“There’s 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 in a clear message to India. In the event that Canada does indeed conclusively prove India’s involvement in the killing in a court of law, there could be serious consequences from India, including from the U.S.

If the CBC report is accurate, then India will have to begin to recalibrate its approach to the crisis which has so far been one of dismissiveness even while justifiably pointing out Canada’s decades-long soft-pedaling of the Khalistan activities on its soil beginning as early as 1982. It was then that then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had asked then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the current prime minister’s father, to extradite Talwinder Singh Parmar who headed the Babbar Khalsa International. Trudeau Sr. refused only to witness three years later with Talwar having allegedly masterminded the bombing of the Air India flight 182 named Kanishka, killing all 329 onboard.

Ironically an official website of the Canadian government even today describes the Kanishka bombing thus: “On June 23, 1985, a bomb exploded on Air India Flight 182 en route from Toronto to London, England killing all 329 people aboard, most of them Canadians. To this day, the Air India bombing is still the worst terrorist attack in Canadian history.”

Of course, thinly hiding behind all this is the flagrant U.S. hypocrisy in having itself carried out several killings of those it regards as terrorists on foreign soil. It should not surprise anyone that if it comes to that stage even New Delhi would not shy away from pointing out the hypocrisy in Washington taking a moral high ground where it has absolutely no justification to.

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