India interfering in Canadian elections, claims intelligence report | World News - Hindustan Times
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India interfering in Canadian elections, claims intelligence report

Feb 04, 2024 12:03 PM IST

While China remains the greatest concern because of its alleged interference in Canadian polls, India also engages in such activity, a briefing note claimed.

While China remains the greatest concern for Canadian authorities because of its alleged interference in Federal elections, India also engages in such activity, a briefing note has claimed.

Security at public hearings for an independent commission probing alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 1, 2024. REUTERS/Blair Gable (REUTERS)
Security at public hearings for an independent commission probing alleged foreign interference in Canadian elections in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada February 1, 2024. REUTERS/Blair Gable (REUTERS)

The outlet Global News cited the declassified document, Briefing to the Minister of Democratic Institutions on Foreign Interference, prepared by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), as stating India as a concern. The note, obtained by the outlet, stated, “India engages in FI (foreign interference) activities.” It reported that this was the only sentence remaining from the document pertaining the India as the rest was redacted.

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Indian officials, in recent months, have denied to the Hindustan Times any attempt to influence elections in Canada.

“As a democratic nation, we don’t interfere in the affairs of other democracies,” an official had said.

China remains main concern for Canada

But the principal concern for Canada remains China, as its alleged interference in the 2019 and 2021 Federal elections, led to the formation of the Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions, headed by Justice Marie-Josee Hogue, which began hearings this week and is expected to release an interim report by May 3, 2024 and deliver its final report by December 31, 2024.

A document submitted to the Inquiry on Thursday and cited by the outlet CBC News said, “PRC (People’s Republic of China) activity targeting Canada’s democratic institutions is primarily motivated by a desire to cultivate relationships with or support political candidates and incumbents who seem receptive or actively promote PRC viewpoints.” This was part of a July 2021 threat assessment prepared by CSIS.

The briefing note stated, “We know that the PRC sought to clandestinely and deceptively influence the 2019 and 2021 federal elections.”

The foreign interference matter became prominent a year back when on February 17, the outlet, Globe and Mail reported, “China employed a sophisticated strategy to disrupt Canada’s democracy in the 2021 federal election campaign as Chinese diplomats and their proxies backed the re-election of Justin Trudeau’s Liberals – but only to another minority government – and worked to defeat Conservative politicians considered to be unfriendly to Beijing.” That report was based on intelligence documents.

A series of China-focused reports emerged from that outlet and Global News.

However, India came into focus when on September 18 last year, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated in the House of Commons there were “credible allegations” of a potential link between Indian agents and the killing of pro-Khalistan figure Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia on June 18, 2023.

Prior to Trudeau’s statement, Canada had also “paused” negotiations with India towards an Early Progress Trade Agreement in late August.

India suspended visas issuance to Canadians right after Trudeau’s statement but that was restored in November. It also sought “parity” in diplomatic presence, leading to 41 Canadian diplomats leaving India in October.

On January 24, the Commission said it “requested that the Government of Canada’s collection and production of document” should include “include information and documents relating to alleged interference by India related to the 2019 and 2021 elections.”

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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    Anirudh Bhattacharya is a Toronto-based commentator on North American issues, and an author. He has also worked as a journalist in New Delhi and New York spanning print, television and digital media. He tweets as @anirudhb.

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