Espionage and Assassinations: India in Global Politics

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, issued in a public statement on September 19th 2023, to disclose the illegitimate involvement of Indian intelligence agencies in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Canadian citizen. Mr. Trudeau described this killing as a “violation of Canada’s sovereignty.” He further added that international norms are based on peaceful coexistence and respect for the sovereignty of other states. This led to a diplomatic stalemate between the two countries resulting in the expulsion of diplomats including the RAW chief in Canada, the suspension of visa offices, and a reduction in the number of diplomatic staff.

Canada’s response to this violation of her sovereignty is resolute and grounded in substantial evidence. In June, Hardeep Singh Nijjer was tragically murdered in the Canadian province of British Columbia. Indian government accused him of being a sympathizer of the Khalistan (the name of an Independent state, the Sikh community is working for) movement. A few days before this killing, on June 15th, Hardeep Singh Khanda, another fervent supporter of Khalistan and leader of the Waris Panjab De in the UK, also passed away under mysterious circumstances in Birmingham. In another related incident in May, a Khalistan supporter Paramjit Singh Panjwar was assassinated in Lahore, Pakistan. Meanwhile, the 2022 death of Rupinder Singh Malik in Surrey, Canada, also remains an unsolved enigma, further deepening the intrigue surrounding these incidents. These killings evoke memories of past Sikh separatist struggles, including Operation Blue Star and the 1984 anti-Sikh riots that culminated in the Sikh massacre in India. It is noteworthy that the allegations labeled against them by the Indian government are not proven in any judicial court nor substantiated by any evidence. These above-mentioned Sikhs were active in the “Worldwide Sikh Referendum” and farmer’s movement in Indian Punjab. The farmer’s movement is considered as a significant non-violent movement in which farmers of Indian Punjab carried out a sit-in for almost a year, until Indian government accepted their demands.

The Indian intelligence agency RAW’s role in this extra judicial killing on a foreign land has been highlighted by Canadian government. Mr. R.K Yadev, former RAW officer argued in his memoir “Mission R&AW,” that RAW operates without sufficient civilian oversight. He further elaborated that RAW should be accountable to the Indian Parliament as it is rife with corruption. His memoir is an evidence of inflated image of self and RAW’s worldview covert operations. As the result now, India is increasingly perceived as a revisionist state, engaged in covert activities against alternate voices and self-assumed enemies.

The recent diplomatic fallout over the killings of Canadian Sikhs by Indian intelligence agencies highlights the absence of international support for India. This challenges India’s claims of a values-based relationship with Western nations. Canadian sources indicate that Indian officials have not denied the core allegation of government involvement in a Canadian citizen’s assassination on Canadian soil. Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau emphasized the seriousness of these allegations and hinted at potential evidence to be revealed in a legal process. In international politics, relations are often driven by shared interests rather than values. The White House clarified that allies are not exempt from accountability, and the U.S. National Security Adviser, Jake Sullivan, acknowledged discussing the matter with top Indian officials.

The darker aspects of India’s covert activities have become more evident in recent years. Various empirical evidences back them. In 2022, Qatar apprehended eight Indian Navy officers on charges of espionage. Pakistan detained an Indian Navy officer named Kulbhushan Jadhav for espionage, involvement in terror financing and executing terrorist activities in Pakistan. In November 2016, Pakistan’s foreign ministry alleged that six Indian embassy officials were associated with RAW, and two were operatives of Indian IB. The UAE arrested and convicted two Indians in 2014 for divulging sensitive port and shipping information to RAW. India’s objectives extend beyond targeting Sikh activists; they also seek to eliminate Kashmiris who resist India’s illegal occupation of Jammu and Kashmir. Muhammad Riaz, a former freedom fighter from IIOJK, was killed in Azad Jammu & Kashmir, and Bashir Ahmed Peer, was slain in Rawalpindi. Syed Khalid Raza, another former freedom fighter, was shot dead in Karachi. These incidents reveal India’s radical aspect, driven by Hindutva-inspired leaders, pursuing expansionist goals through acts of terror, both within Indian Punjab, illegally occupied Jammu and Kashmir, and abroad.

Moreover, India’s history includes nurturing groups like LTTE, Mukti Bahini, and Shakti Bahini. Indian PM Modi, himself admitted the role of India in disintegrating Pakistan and creating Bangladesh. The Royal massacre in Nepal was also reportedly linked to RAW. In 2020, Canada’s Global News exposed R&AW and IB funding Canadian politicians to favor India over Pakistan. In May 2020, an Indian man was charged with spying on the Sikh community and Kashmiri activists for Indian intelligence in Germany. Numerous instances of Indian intelligence agencies breaching the sovereignty of other nations are documented.

Recent Sikh killings, whether in Canada, Pakistan, or elsewhere, follow a similar pattern. India labels them terrorists, but covertly eliminates them and denies involvement. Even after the statement of Canadian PM regarding involvement of Indian government in Killings on Canadian soil, another leader of Canadian Sikh community Mr. Sukhdool Sigh has been killed on 21st September 2023.  He was on the hit list of Indian National Investigation Agency (NIA).

Since 2005, the Srivastava Group, in collaboration with ANI, has been running operations aimed at discrediting Asian nations, particularly Pakistan and, to a lesser extent, China, with whom India is in conflict. The objectives encompass fostering pro-Indian sentiments domestically, enhancing India’s global influence, and undermining the reputations of other countries to garner greater support from entities like the EU and the UN. Pakistan adheres to international norms despite these actions. EU Disinfo lab published its report “Indian Chronicles: deep dive into a 15-year operation targeting the EU and UN to serve Indian interests.” The report clearly articulated India’s media operations to undermine the interests of Western states and international organisations. They presented substantive evidences in support of their report.

India seeks to project soft power globally to attain great power status, but it is implicated in state-sponsored terrorism on foreign lands. The evident catalog of substantiated actions underscores the evolving nature of India under Prime Minister Modi’s leadership. Numerous documented cases illustrate Indian state-sponsored terrorism, including assassination plots and financial support for terrorist activities in Pakistan, Canada, India, and elsewhere. The Indian government’s covert operations within Pakistan resulting in the apprehension of its operatives, now extends to violating the sovereignty of a NATO member state. Analysts debate whether India, like Israel, is employing covert operations on foreign soil, highlighting its desperation to silence inconvenient truth.

Extra-judicial killings and ethnic, religious genocides played a significant role in Modi’s rise as leader of India. The murder of Mr. Pramod Mahajn, whose untimely killing paved way for Mr. Modi to become head of BJP. Muslim genocide of Gujrat, Christian genocide of Manipur, mob lynching of Muslim and Dalit’s, killings of innocent Kashmiris, murders of secular journalists of India, etc all become political dividends for Mr. Modi. Apparently, this has provided plenty of over confidence of Mr. Modi and originations working under him such as RAW. Inability of the US president to raise the issue of human rights violations in India during his participation in G 20 summit in New Delhi was another manifestation of India being a significant ally of the West. However, it is yet to be decided how West will deal with such humiliation and violation of NATO ally? International community should not forget that Modi conveniently escalate a situation without defining the de-escalation ladder and later on looks towards the West for help. Same was happened in 2019 when India illegally violated Pakistan’s air space without rationally calculating the consequences in nuclear zero-sum strategic environment.

About Authors

Dr. Asma Shakir Khawaja is the Executive Director at the Centre for International Strategic Studies AJK and Abdul Basit is the Associate Research Officer at the Centre for International Strategic Studies AJK

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