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Former Canada NSA dismisses claim that ‘rogue elements’ in India tried to embarrass Trudeau

Jaspal Atwal was convicted on terror charges related to the attempted assassination of a visiting minister from Punjab in 1985.

world Updated: Mar 07, 2018 13:46 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada,Khalistan,Former Canada NSA
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau addresses the India Canada Business Session in New Delhi.(PTI Photo)

Canada’s former National Security Advisor has dismissed the theory advanced by his successor that convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal was planted by “rogue elements” in the Indian establishment to embarrass Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent visit to India.

Atwal was convicted on terror charges related to the attempted assassination of a visiting minister from Punjab in 1985. His presence at an official event in Mumbai attended by Trudeau and an invitation to an official dinner reception hosted by the Canadian envoy in New Delhi caused embarrassment to Trudeau.

Asked during the course of an interview on a syndicated Canadian radio talk show by host Evan Solomon whether he did “buy the conspiracy theory”, Richard Fadden, who served as NSA to Trudeau and his predecessor Stephen Harper, said: “I do not.”

Even as Fadden’s rejection of the theory was being aired, Jagmeet Singh, leader of the opposition New Democratic Party (NDP), waded into the controversy by seeking an investigation into the matter.

Singh tweeted, “Canadians are concerned about the allegations of foreign interference by elements of the Indian government. If true, they do serious harm to our democracy. New Democrats are calling on the government to investigate their claims of interference and provide Canadians the truth.”

Singh has been critical of the Indian government, especially its handling of the anti-Sikh riots in 1984, and was once denied a visa by India.

The allegations of Indian interference in Trudeau’s visit did not resonate with Fadden, who told the radio talk show: “If it were true, it would be very serious indeed. Which is why I think it’s probably not true because I still don’t see the advantage to India of their doing this.

“It’s unclear to me, if this were the case, what the government of India or one of its agencies would be trying to accomplish. I don’t see it. Yes, it’s theoretically possible,” he added, in response to a similar question.

Fadden has also served as director of the spy agency, Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The Canadian government continues to blame Liberal Party MP Randeep Sarai for the fiasco involving Atwal.

He had forwarded Atwal’s name to be included in the list of invitees for the dinner reception at the residence of the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi on February 23.

In an email responding to queries from Hindustan Times, Scott Bardsley, press secretary in the office of the minister of public safety and emergency preparedness, said, “We have been clear the individual in question never should have received an invitation, and as soon as it was brought to our attention, the invitation was rescinded.

“This individual was included by a Member of Parliament, and that member has taken full responsibility for his actions.”

Bardsley did not reply to a question on whether the Canadian government is seeking to investigate the “rogue elements” claim by an unnamed national security official, later revealed to be NSA Daniel Jean.

Trudeau’s support for that position, voiced in the House of Commons, was echoed by the spokesperson, as he said: “Canadian security authorities performed their jobs in all of these circumstances exactly as they should. They provide independent, impartial, professional advice and information to the government of Canada and Canadians, and that is exactly what has happened in this case. Our professional, non-partisan public service does high-quality work.”

However, Fadden felt the fault might lie in lax security protocols, as he said, “I suspect that all of the other various institutions who should have caught it didn’t because it was likely a last minute issue and there were too many other things going on.”

He hoped there would be tighter procedures for such prime ministerial events “because of this”.

First Published: Mar 07, 2018 13:46 IST