‘Hardeep Nijjar was not simply a plumber’: Ex-Pentagon official slams Canada PM Trudeau's India allegations

Sep 24, 2023 09:50 AM IST

India-Canada News: Michael Rubin said Justin Trudeau is playing into the hands of people who are looking at Khalistan movement as a movement of ego and profit.

Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin has censured Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for alleging that India had links with the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar and claimed that the Khalistani extremist “was not simply a plumber” and "he had blood on his hands".

A sign outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple is seen after the killing on its grounds in June 2023 of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. (REUTERS)
A sign outside the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara temple is seen after the killing on its grounds in June 2023 of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada. (REUTERS)

Rubin, a senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute, also termed Trudeau's claims as “shameless” and “cynical”, urging the US not to play into the hands of people who are looking at the Khalistani movement as a movement for ego, profit and politics, news agency PTI reported.

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Nijjar, the chief of the banned Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), was one of India's most-wanted terrorists who carried a cash reward of 10 lakh on his head. The killing of Nijjar, whom India had designated as a terrorist in 2020, sparked a huge diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa, since Trudeau's explosive allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the incident on June 18 in British Columbia.

India has angrily rejected the allegations as “absurd” and “motivated” and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official over the case.

'Canadian PM made a huge mistake': Michael Rubin

Rubin, speaking at a panel discussion at the Hudson Institute think-tank, claimed Trudeau is playing into the hands of people who are looking at the Khalistani movement as a movement of ego and profit. He also warned that the Canadian prime minister has made a huge mistake by alleging India's possible involvement and criticised him for not backing his allegations with evidence so far.

“Prime Minister Trudeau I think has made a huge mistake. He has made allegations in a manner which he hasn't been able to back. Either he was shooting from the hip and he doesn't have the evidence to support the accusations he made against the government. There is something there, in which case he needs to explain why this government was sheltering a terrorist,” the former Pentagon official said.

What is striking about Trudeau's "shameless action and cynical action" is that while he's making a statement now, the killing of Karima Baloch that was carried out allegedly with Pakistani assistance is a police matter and has not been taken to the Prime Minister's Office, Rubin said.

Baloch, a Pakistani human rights activist found murdered in Toronto. Canadian police took the lead on the case. There were suggestions of the Pakistani government's complicity.

"So, the question then becomes why the discrepancy if not populist political posturing? ... That might help Justin Trudeau in the long term but that's not what leadership is. We really need our politicians on both sides of the aisle here and in Canada, (there is a) need to be much more responsible because they're playing with fire," he said.

It seems, Rubin said, that some outside hands are trying to revive the Khalistan movement. "I don't think it will work," he said, adding he would not want the US to give legitimacy to this sort of "cynical manoeuvres by outside powers".

"It would be a mistake to suddenly see a separatist movement and argue that this is legitimate. And I worry less so with the United States but more so with what we see in Canada right now with Justin Trudeau, that same knee-jerk reaction playing into the hands of people who are looking at the Khalistani movement as a movement for ego, a movement for profit and for politics," he said.

Rubin added, "As a former consumer of intelligence, I can say that oftentimes the intelligence we see whether it's a telephone intercept or something else, isn't as black and white, isn't as cut and dry. I mean, certainly, that was the case with regard to the Iraq War.”

He further said: “So when you have a situation like this, perhaps Prime Minister Trudeau raised the issue, but there wasn't necessarily consensus on what he meant. And regardless, let's not fool ourselves, Nijjar was not simply a plumber, any more than Osama bin Laden was a construction engineer. He had blood on his hands from multiple attacks.”

Michael Rubin reacts to Antony Blinken’s statement

On US State Secretary Antony Blinken’s statement that the US always stood against transnational repression, Rubin said: “We are actually being hypocritical if Secretary Blinken makes that statement, because after all, what we are talking about isn't transnational repression. We are talking about transnational terrorism, and what the United States did to Qasem really no different than what India is alleged to have done in this case.”

Blinken on Friday said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the allegations made by Trudeau about the Indian government's involvement in the killing of Nijjar. He said the US wanted to see accountability and called it “important” that the investigation runs its course and leads to the result.

Separately, Rubin while writing in The National Interest, an American bimonthly international relations magazine, said President Joe Biden is right to avoid giving immediate support to Trudeau, PTI reported.

Attack on India's consulate in San Francisco

In July, India's consulate in San Francisco was attacked by Khalistan supporters, who tried to set the diplomatic facility on fire, in the second such act of violence within months.

A video by Khalistan supporters, dated July 2 posted on X, showed the act of arson at the Indian Consulate. The video, with the words “violence begets violence” emblazoned over it, also showed news articles related to the death of Nijjar.

Shared intelligence from Five Eyes informed Trudeau's India allegation: US ambassador

US ambassador to Canada David Cohen confirmed that "shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners" had informed Trudeau of the possible involvement of Indian agents in the murder of a Canadian citizen in June, CTV News reported.

Intelligence-sharing network Five Eyes includes the U.S., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

"I will say this was a matter of shared intelligence information. There was a lot of communication between Canada and the United States about this, and I think that's as far as I'm comfortable going," Cohen told CTV News in an interview to be aired on Sunday.

(With inputs from agencies)

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    Have 11 years' experience in print and digital media. Write on politics, defence and world affairs, and have a keen eye for human-interest stories.

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