Canadian arrest highlights suspicions of gang involvement in Indian intelligence operations

The first in the killing took place on Friday, months after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of plotting murders on Canadian soil, sending diplomatic relations between the two countries to an all-time low. ‘s arrests did little to shed light on the rationale. of his claims.

Police have provided no clues or evidence that India orchestrated the murder of Sikh nationalist leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead at a temple in Surrey, British Columbia, in June. What they said was that three Indian men had committed the killings and that an investigation into India’s role was underway.

Before the arrest, Indian officials had argued that Canada was essentially trying to drag New Delhi into a war between gangs whose members are wanted for crimes in India.

After being arrested, Report from CBC, Canada’s public broadcasterIt also said, based on anonymous sources, that the suspects belonged to an Indian criminal organization.

But analysts and former officials said that just because a gang may have been involved in the killing does not necessarily mean the Indian government was not involved in the crime.

India’s external spy agency, the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), has long been suspected of infiltrating criminal networks and carrying out operations in neighboring regions of South Asia while maintaining deniability.

If Canada’s accusations that India orchestrated Nijjar’s murder are proven, and the US made similar accusations in a separate incident soon after, it is unlikely that RAW will work with criminals to carry out operations in Western countries. This may indicate that the company is expanding its strategy of analysts said.

U.S. authorities have presented strong evidence in their accusation that Indian government agents were involved in a failed assassination plot of a dual U.S.-Canadian citizen. And Canada and its allies maintain that Canada has evidence to support Mr. Trudeau’s claim that Indian agents carried out Mr. Nijjar’s murder.

However, nine months after Mr. Trudeau’s explosive accusations, Mr. Nijjar’s murder is subject to accusations and counterclaims in a highly charged political environment in both countries, with Canada failing to release any evidence of India’s involvement. Stayed within the realm. analysts said.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has flexed his muscles as a nationalist strongman and defender of India who will stop at nothing against security threats during his ongoing campaign for a third term in power. is promoting its position.

In his speeches, he has boasted about how his government eliminates its enemies by “raining down on their homes.” While he makes these references in relation to his country’s arch-enemy Pakistan, right-wing accounts on social media are hailing Nijjar’s killing in Canada as a similar reach of Modi’s long arm. Ta.

Meanwhile, Mr. Trudeau has been criticized for being weak on China’s election interference activities in Canada, and was seen to have compensated for this by pre-empting Mr. Nijjar’s murder.

Canadian police announced on Friday that they had arrested three Indian men in Edmonton, Alberta, and charged them with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in Nijjar’s death. Police said the suspects had lived in Canada for three to five years but were not permanent residents.

Gang reported by CBC The hit squad is led by Lawrence Bishnoi, 31, who is accused in several cases of murder, extortion and drug trafficking. He organized many of them in Indian prisons. Held since 2014. His members are believed to be behind the murder of a popular Punjabi rapper and the threat of attacks on Bollywood celebrities.

Indian security agencies frequently arrest criminals linked to Mr. Bishnoi, many of whom have gang networks that have spread to Canada and aimed at dismantling Khalistan, once a deep-rooted violent separatist movement. He was arrested on suspicion of collaborating with people promoting activities from mainland Canada. The Indian state of Punjab is established as an independent state.

Canada is home to a large Sikh diaspora, many of whom immigrated to Canada in the 1980s following the Indian government’s violent and often indiscriminate crackdown on the Khalistan independence movement. Although the cause has largely died out within India, it still has supporters among some in the diaspora. India’s government has accused Canada and several other Western countries of not doing enough to crack down on separatists.

Analysts and former security officials say that in India’s geographically contiguous regions, RAW is often willing to venture into shadowy spaces to recruit killers. Senior officials in Mr. Modi’s government have gone into the underworld in the past to find hitmen targeting domestic targets, including Ajit Doval, the renowned former spymaster who is now the longtime national security adviser. He has been accused of meddling. Similarly overseas.

Mr. Bishnoi wields tremendous power behind bars, giving television interviews from prison last year in which he pitched himself as a nationalist fighter rather than a criminal mastermind. One former security official said it was a sign of an attempt to align with the spirit of nationalism for a potential deal.

“I am a nationalist,” Bishnoi said in the interview. “I am against Khalistan. I am against Pakistan.”

Ajay Sahni, a security analyst who runs the South Asia Terrorism Portal in New Delhi, said the use of criminal organizations by spy agencies to carry out operations in denial “happens all over the world.” He said it was true.

“There is definitely the potential for agencies like RAW to exploit gang wars in exchange for exposing their own covert operatives,” Sahni added. “But just because that’s the way we generally expect it to be doesn’t necessarily mean we know that’s exactly the way the Nijjar murders happened.”

The failed plan on American soil had some of the characteristics of an agency sloppily trying to extend an old strategy into another, unfamiliar territory.

A US indictment in November revealed evidence of electronic communications and cash transactions between a hired hitman (who turned out to be an undercover police officer), a vaunted intermediary, and criminals. became. Indian intelligence agent recently identified by the Washington Post as Vikram Yadav.

India’s response signaled concern, with India’s top diplomat saying the action was not government policy, but the government announced an investigation into the matter and pledged cooperation with the United States.

In Canada, the story was quite different. Canada has not released any evidence to support Mr. Trudeau’s claims, even though allied officials announced in September that Canadian authorities had discovered intercepted communications of Indian diplomats in Canada that implicated them in the plot. .

Indian officials have responded to Mr. Trudeau’s claims with an aggressive tone that suggested he was either not involved or confident in his denials.

The Indian government has expelled a Canadian diplomat and doubled down by releasing a list of people in Canada who have long been wanted as part of links to crime and terrorism.

Modi government officials were on the scene last week at an event attended by Mr. Trudeau, arguing that his accusations showed they were simply trying to appease him, saying he was collecting Sikh votes. They pointed to a video of the event in which Mr. Trudeau was the guest of honor and chants of “Long live Khalistan” were shouted. In his speech, Prime Minister Trudeau said, “We will always be there to protect your rights and freedoms, and we will always protect your communities from hate.”

After the speech, India’s foreign ministry summoned Canada’s second-highest diplomat in New Delhi and lodged a complaint.

“His comments to us remind us of what kind of political space is given to those who commit acts of separatism, extremism and violence in Canada,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said at a press conference. It shows,” he said.

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