THE World Sikh Organization of Canada said on Friday that it is deeply disturbed by a report published by Global News revealing that Indian intelligence agencies “attempted to use money and disinformation to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians”.
India’s intelligence agencies, Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and the Indian Intelligence Bureau were behind the operation which began in 2009 according to a highly sensitive government document obtained by Global News.
According to a decision by the Federal Court, dated March 31, 2020, an editor-in-chief of an unnamed Indian newspaper, identified only as “A.B”, met with Indian intelligence over 25 times in five years and was, as a result, refused permanent residency in Canada. The basis of the denial was that A.B. had been tasked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government.
His instructions from RAW included providing financial assistance and propaganda material to politicians in order to exert influence over them, including convincing politicians that funding from Canada was being sent to Pakistan to support terrorism.
[According to the story by well-known journalist Stewart Bell, the editor “did not dispute being “asked by the IB and RAW to perform various functions,” according to the court.”]
The WSO said it has repeatedly raised concerns over Indian interference in Canada. Most recently, in April 2019, it expressed concerns about Indian interference and espionage within the Sikh community in Canada in a letter to then Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale.
During almost every bilateral meeting between Canada and India for well over a decade, Indian officials have raised concerns over alleged extremist activity in the Canadian Sikh community and “pro-Khalistan radicalism”. Canadian Sikhs have consistently rejected these claims as attempts to marginalize and smear the Sikh community and to disparage Sikh advocacy on issues India finds objectionable.
Canadian Sikhs have asserted that allegations of Sikh extremism are promoted by Indian interests which are ideologically and politically driven and intended to malign the community in the public eye. The inclusion of “Sikh (Khalistan) Extremism” in the 2018 Public Report on the Terrorism Threat to Canada, in the absence of any clear reason, appeared to validate the fears of the Sikh community that unsubstantiated Indian allegations of rising Sikh extremism in Canada have had an impact.
The WSO said India has a long history of interference and espionage in Canada, targeting the Sikh community.
In 1986-87 several Indian diplomats were asked by Canadian authorities to leave Canada because of their espionage activities in the Sikh community. One of these diplomats was Maloy Krishna Dhar, a former Joint Director and a 29-year veteran of the Indian Intelligence Bureau, was in Ottawa on a diplomatic posting from 1983-87. Dhar wrote in his memoir “Open Secrets” that his mission was to “penetrate select Gurdwaras”, create assets in the Sikh community and also to generate “a few friends amongst the Canadian Members of Parliament.”
Dhar also was involved in targeting both mainstream and Punjabi media with stories to “tell the Indian side” and to “regularly meet Canadian Foreign Office mandarins and RCMP point men to brief them about developments back in India and to share whatever “open” information the Indian mission could cull from the community through ‘open’ means.”
Dhar wrote, “I do not intend to disclose the details of the intelligence operations that were carried out between Mani, Shashi and me in deference to the niceties of diplomatic protocol. But we did a lot and reached appreciable penetration in the key Sikh inhabited cities in Canada.”
The WSO said that while the activities of Indian intelligence have not drawn attention in the same way in recent years, pressure from Indian interests continues to be felt by many members of the Canadian Sikh community.
WSO President Tejinder Singh Sidhu said on Friday: “While we are deeply troubled by the news that Indian intelligence agencies have been attempting to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians with money and disinformation, it is hardly surprising to Canadian Sikhs.
“Indian intelligence agencies have a long history of using media and planted stories to negatively portray Sikhs in Canada. Sikhs have long suffered from the consequences of this foreign interference.
“The WSO has regularly raised the issue of Indian espionage and interference in Canada with the federal government. We call on the federal government to take immediate steps to clamp down on Indian espionage here in Canada and to ensure that the Canadians can live free from the machinations of foreign governments.”