Any suggestion that Indian security agencies had a hand in inviting convicted Khalistani militant Jaspal Atwal to a formal dinner with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Delhi is “baseless and unacceptable”, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said on Wednesday.
The statement came after Trudeau appeared to agree with the Canadian opposition lawmkers that “factions within the Indian government” orchestrated the Atwal debacle. The claim was based on the statement of a senior security official in the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office.
The Opposition had identified the senior official as National Security Adviser Daniel Jean and asked Trudeau if he agreed with the “conspiracy theory”, CBC News reported. “Our professional, non-partisan public service does high-quality work, and when one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true,” the Canadian prime minister had responded. This came after Canadian lawmaker Randeep S Sarai had taken responsibility for inviting Atwal to the reception dinner, saying he “should have exercised better judgment”.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Raveesh Kumar rubbished Canada’s claims. “Let me categorically state that the government of India, including security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception in New Delhi,” he said. “Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.”
Atwal – a member of the banned International Sikh Youth Federation – was convicted for trying to kill Punjab Cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver Island in 1986. He was sent to 20 years in prison. He has also been convicted in an automobile fraud case.
The Khalistani militant had attended a dinner hosted in honour of Trudeau in Mumbai on February 20. An invitation to another dinner reception – at the Canadian High Commissioner’s home in New Delhi on February 22 – was rescinded after it led to a furore.