BY AARTI TIKOO SINGH
New Delhi/Ottawa, April 19 (IANS) Ever since the diplomatically disastrous trip of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s to India two years ago, the New Delhi-Ottawa relations have been at an ebb. Reason: the increasing influence of Pakistan in Canada.
The Indo-Canadian bilateral relationship has soured so much that recently, in a trivial case, the country’s top intelligence agency Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) unsuccessfully attempted to get an Indian national’s application for citizenship rejected by accusing him of “covertly influencing” Canadian politicians against Khalistanis (Sikh separatists).
The Canadian court dismissed the accusations against the Indian national, who is an editor of a newspaper in New Delhi but the CSIS ensured that the allegation became the news in the Canadian press.
All this began, sources said, when Canadians of Khalistani-background and Pakistani- descent began to assume significant positions in the Liberal Party of Canada and especially, the Trudeau government.
The Defence Minister of Canada, Harjit Singh Sajjan and the Science and Technology Minister in the Trudeau government, have been publicly called Khalistani sympathizers by Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh. Even the Canadian opposition, New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Jagmeet Singh is an open supporter of Khalistanis.
The Sikh militancy in the 1980s, seeking secession from India and a separate Khalistan state, was sponsored by Pakistan’s military and ISI. Thousands of innocent people in Punjab were killed by Khalistani separatists. Though the militancy was wiped out by the Indian security forces, but in the last five years, several attempts by the ISI in connivance with the separatist diaspora of Sikhs to revive the Khalistani terrorism have been made.
The sensitivity about the issue in India, is however, lost in Canada. The government caucus in Canada has four Pakistani Canadians, who according to sources, have links to Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI. Iqra Khalid of Jamaat-e-Islami shares the strongest relationship with the ISI, sources said.
Another Pakistani Canadian, Jawad Hussain Qureshi, works in one of the most important departments of the Canadian government – “the Privy Council Office” – which helps the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, in “implementing its vision, goals and decisions in a timely manner”.
Pakistan’s influence in Canada is so enormous that even though very few Pakistanis live in Vancouver, but Islamabad has a consulate in the city. Sources said the consulate remains in close contact with the massive Khalistani population in Vancouver. Incidentally, the Sikh Premier and Canadian Labour party member Ujjal Dosanjh was attacked in 1985 in Vancouver because he opposed Khalistan.
Last year, former United Conservative Party member Jason Kenney was investigated by Alberta’s election commissioner for recruiting members of the Pakistani community to support his leadership bid. The revelation was made by Tariq Chaudhry, former president of Pakistan Canada Association who regularly reports to Pakistan consulate in Toronto, sources said.
But above all, sources said, the spokesperson and a recruiter of the CSIS, Tahera Mufti is also of Pakistani-descent. In a piece published in the Canadian press last year, Mufti accused foreign actors of attempting to directly influence the upcoming federal election campaign.” Conspicuously, while the piece referred to “foreign actors” such as India, Russia, China and Saudi Arabia, she made no mention of Pakistan in her statement.
Interestingly, Trudeau’s former principal secretary and advisor Gerald Butts later accused Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi of “screwing” the Canadian Prime Minister during his 2018 trip to India and helping his opposition, the Canadian Conservatives.
“With such Pakistani influence in the Canadian government, there is almost a complete indifference towards India,” a source in Ottawa said. Official sources in New Delhi acknowledged the problem. “The relations are so frigid that India finally sent one of its best diplomats, Ajay Bisaria, to repair the relations,” an official said.
BY AARTI TIKOO SINGH