Jaspal Atwal says Trudeau govt lying about ‘rogue elements’ in India over dinner controversy
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Jaspal Atwal says Trudeau govt lying about ‘rogue elements’ in India over dinner controversy

A senior Canadian official has said “rogue elements” in the Indian government had planted Indo-Canadian Jaspal Atwal, convicted of terror-related charges, at a Canadian-hosted dinner to embarrass Justin Trudeau.

world Updated: Apr 16, 2018 17:26 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
Jaspal Atwal,India,Canada
Jaspal Atwal with federal minister Harjit Sajjan at the Mumbai reception in honour of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his trip to India in February.(Courtesy: Jaspal Atwal)

Jaspal Atwal, the man at the centre of a controversy that led to a chill in India-Canada ties, has accused the Justin Trudeau government of “lying” in framing him as an agent planted by “rogue elements” within the Indian establishment to embarrass the Canadian prime minister during his visit to India in February.

“The result will be that there will be a reckoning between the falsehoods and the truth and the reality will emerge. And Prime Minister Trudeau and his people will have to apologise to the Indian government and to Jaspal Atwal,” he said during a nearly hour-long telephone interview, conducted mainly in Hindi.

The Trudeau government had been left red-faced after a photograph emerged showing Atwal with the prime minister’s wife Sophie Gregoire at an official reception during the trip. Atwal, who had been convicted in 1987 on charges related to the attempted assassination of a visiting minister from Punjab state, was also invited to an official reception for Trudeau in New Delhi but the invitation was later rescinded.

A senior Canadian official, later revealed to be National Security Advisor Daniel Jean, had briefed Canadian reporters and floated the “rogue elements” theory, which was supported by Trudeau on multiple occasions, including in the House of Commons.

“They thought they would lie and escape but they are now trapped. End of the day, the result will be seen, whether it takes a month or two months or year: They are lying,” Atwal said in an interview that was combative and contrary to the contrite statement he issued earlier, during which he had apologised for causing embarrassment to Trudeau.

“They are caught in their own lie and they will have to apologise and that person (who made the allegation) will lose his job.”

Atwal alleged Jean’s accusation was based on “misleading” information provided by a member of the Punjabi media in Vancouver area, who was an “agent” of Canadian intelligence. He also said he was photographed at the Mumbai reception with Trudeau, who had hugged him and greeted him warmly: “When I went on the stage, he knew me, He said, ‘Hey Jas, how’re you doing?’”

While photographs of Atwal with the prime minister’s wife and federal minister Amarjeet Sohi have appeared in the media, he provided similar smiling pictures with two other ministers, Navdeep Bains and Harjit Sajjan. Atwal said he originally never planned on attending the Mumbai event but did so at the request of a friend.

The invitation to the Delhi event was rescinded by the Canadian government after the furore over Atwal’s presence at the Mumbai reception cast a shadow on Trudeau’s trip.

Jaspal Atwal with federal minister Navdeep Bains at the Mumbai reception in honour of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his trip to India in February. ( Courtesy: Jaspal Atwal )

Atwal said his visit to India was planned earlier, and the reason was for consultations and medical tests related to a neurological problem. He said he consulted a doctor in Delhi and was admitted in a hospital in Jalandhar for this purpose.

The invitation to attend the official events in Mumbai and New Delhi came at the initiative of Canadian MP Randeep Sarai. “He said, ‘I will forward your name and if security approves, then you come, otherwise, that’s it’,” Atwal said.

He asserted his name had been cleared by Canadian intelligence and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and he was emailed the invitations from the office of Nadir Patel, Canada’s high commissioner in New Delhi.

Atwal also said an Indian visa had been issued to him after he was removed from a “blacklist”, and that there were others on the trip who had benefited similarly from New Delhi’s outreach, including minister Sajjan’s father. “Where did the Indian government come in the middle? They have nothing to do with this,” he said.

Referring to the “snub” that Trudeau experienced in India, starting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi not receiving him at the airport on his arrival in New Delhi, Atwal alleged that travelling on that same flight were proponents of Khalistan. “The prime minister (Trudeau) should have this much knowledge that if Khalistanis are part of the entourage, why should the other government welcome him?” he said.

Jean is scheduled to testify before the House Public Safety and National Security Committee even as the National Security and Intelligence Committee of parliamentarians is conducting “a special review” connected to the affair.

Atwal said he would gladly testify if asked to do so: “I have no problem, they can call me any time they want. I’m ready to be there. I want to tell the truth.”

For now, Atwal is consulting a lawyer in Toronto on whether there are grounds for pursuing legal action against the Canadian government because “they threw me under the bus”, he said. Asked over email to clarify why he was contemplating such a measure, he responded, “(The) governmentof Canada including PM, they put my life in jeopardy.”

First Published: Apr 16, 2018 16:46 IST