The United States has shared “legally presentable” inputs with India about New Delhi’s possible involvement in a foiled plot to kill Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun on US soil, the Indian High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma said on Sunday.
However, he said, Canada is yet to provide “relevant information” linking the Narendra Modi government to the assassination of Sikh separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver on June 18.
Verma’s remarks, made during an interview with Canadian television channel CTV News, are the first by an Indian official attempting to clarify New Delhi’s responses to similar allegations by the US and Canada – that India is involved in the murder or attempted murder of Sikh separatists who are living abroad.
Pannun is an American and Canadian citizen while Nijjar was Canadian. Both have advocated for the creation of Khalistan, a proposed independent Sikh nation that some hope to establish in north India.
Pannun is the founder of the Sikhs for Justice, a pro-Khalistan group based in the United States which was banned in India in 2019. He was declared an “individual terrorist” the following year under the Unlawful Activities Prevention Act, 1967.
Nijjar was the head of the Khalistan Tiger Force, designated as a “terrorist outfit” in India.
Hours after the Financial Times reported on Wednesday that the Joe Biden administration had issued a warning to India about New Delhi’s involvement in a conspiracy to kill Pannun on American soil, the Indian government said it was examining the security inputs shared by the US.
“Those inputs are a nexus between gangsters, drug peddlers, terrorists, and gun runners in the US,” said Verma. “There is a belief that some of the Indian connections – now when I say Indian connections, I do not mean the government of India connections, there are 1.4 billion people, so some of the Indian connections are there – they are ready to investigate. Because we have got inputs which are legally presentable.”
On the claims made by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in September, the ambassador said that India needs specific and relevant information “to go back to our legal authorities to seek permission to do the investigation that we would have wanted to do”.
“So, until the time that those kinds of inputs are not there, in a country of rule of law, it will not be possible for us to move forward on the investigations,” he said.
On September 18, Trudeau said that his country’s intelligence agencies were pursuing “credible allegations” tying agents of the Indian government to the killing of Nijjar.
Asked directly whether India had any hand in Nijjar’s assassination, Verma responded: “I can assure you and your viewers that there was no [Indian] government hand in the shooting of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil.”