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Jaspal Atwal: Canada oppn pressuring NSA to explain his ‘rogue element in India’ statement

Canada’s opposition Conservative Party is pressuring the government to force the NSA to explain in public the allegation that “rogue elements” in the Indian government tried to sabotage Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit.

world Updated: Mar 22, 2018 21:54 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Canada,Conservative Party,Khalistani terrorist
File photo of Jaspal Atwal (right)(File )

Canada’s opposition Conservative Party is pressuring the government to instruct the National Security Advisor to appear before a parliamentary committee and explain in public the allegation that “rogue elements” in the Indian establishment had planted a convicted Khalistani terrorist to embarrass Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent trip to India.

Jake Enright, a spokesperson for opposition leader Andrew Scheer, said a motion on the matter had been placed on notice and the Conservative Party wanted it to be debated and voted on in the House of Commons.

The motion relates to the controversy over Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted in 1987 of attempting to assassinate a visiting minister from India’s Punjab state the previous year, and his invitation to an official dinner reception hosted for Trudeau by Canada’s envoy to New Delhi on February 22.

The invitation was rescinded after Atwal’s antecedents became clear, but the matter was complicated by an unnamed senior official, later revealed to be NSA Daniel Jean, briefing Canadian media on the “rogue elements” theory.

Despite a strong rebuttal to the allegation from the external affairs ministry, Trudeau further aggravated strained relations by stating in Canada’s Parliament that he believed the charge to be “true”, a stand he has reiterated since then.

Days later, foreign minister Chrystia Freeland said in an interview with the CTV network that during her meeting with her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj in New Delhi, she had described the invitation to Atwal as a “honest mistake”.

This statement by Freeland has been seized on by the opposition in its motion, moved by Quebec MP Pierre Paul-Hus.

The motion states: “That, given the Prime Minister has supported a claim that the invitation issued to a convicted attempted murderer was the work of a foreign government attempting to interfere in Canadian foreign relations, while others in the government, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs, claimed that the invitation was an ‘honest mistake’ on the part of the Canadian government, the House call upon the Prime Minister to instruct his National Security Advisor, Daniel Jean, to appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to provide the Committee the same briefing he gave to journalists on February 23, 2018, and that the briefing take place in public and no later than March 30, 2018.”

MPs from the ruling Liberal Party have already blocked an attempt by the opposition to call Jean to testify before a House of Commons’ national security committee and another attempt in the Senate is stalled.

The Canadian government has argued that any such testimony by the NSA must be held before a committee behind closed doors. The opposition Conservatives, though, want a public hearing and will push for that objective with the latest motion they have backed in the House.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 17:29 IST