NEW DELHI - Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is standing by a senior national security official’s startling accusation that a convicted Sikh terrorist presence in his dinner in India was an attempt by “rogue” elements in the Indian establishment to embarrass him on the issue of Sikh separatist activity on Canadian soil, Hindustan times has reported.
As the debacle that was Trudeau’s visit to India captivated the Canadian political class, opposition Conservatives raised the issue in the House of Commons, the lower house of Parliament. They asked whether Trudeau agreed with the “conspiracy theory” advanced by the official, identified by Canadian media as National Security Advisor Daniel Jean.
Responding to the Opposition attack, Trudeau said, “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true.”
Hours after Trudeau’s remarks, the external affairs ministry said any suggestion that the Indian government had anything to do with Atwal’s presence at two official events in Mumbai and New Delhi was “baseless and unacceptable”.
Atwal and three men were convicted of attempted murder for a 1986 attack on Akali Dal leader Malkiat Singh Sidhu while he was visiting relatives in Canada.
Sidhu, then a minister of state in the Punjab government, was injured in the attack. He was later killed by Sikh militants in Punjab in 1991.
Trudeau faced embarrassment when it emerged that Atwal had attended an official event in Mumbai, where he was photographed with the Canadian prime minister’s wife, and was invited to an official dinner reception hosted by Canada’s envoy in New Delhi. The invitation was later rescinded.
External affairs ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India had noted the exchange in the Canadian Parliament regarding the invitations issued to Atwal to two official events.
“Let me categorically state that the government of India, including the 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. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable,” he said.