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No question of 'equitable treatment' to US and Canada: Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha on Khalistan row

The External Affairs Minister argued that the US shared inputs that had a bearing on India's national security interests, while Canada provided no proof to support its claims. The matter concerns an Indian national being indicted in a murder plot against Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New Delhi Published on: December 08, 2023 11:07 IST
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha.
Image Source : PTI External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar in Rajya Sabha.

External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, while addressing the Khalistan issue in the Rajya Sabha, said that the question of "equitable treatment" for the US and Canada did not arise as Ottawa gave no evidence about its bombshell allegations regarding the killing of terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, unlike Washington over the alleged foiled assassination attempt on Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

Responding to a question by CPI (M) MP John Brittas on reports of the US linking an Indian official to the alleged murder attempt of US-based Khalistani terrorist Pannun and India's fierce response to allegations by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Jaishankar asserted that a high-level enquiry committee is looking into the inputs shared by the US on the nexus between organised crime, trafficking and more.

"Insofar as the US is concerned, certain inputs were given to us as part of our security cooperation with the US. Those inputs were of concern to us because they related to the nexus of organised crime, trafficking and other matters. So, because it has a bearing on our own national security, it was decided to institute an inquiry into the matter and an inquiry committee has been constituted. Insofar as Canada is concerned, no specific evidence or inputs were provided to us," said the EAM in Rajya Sabha.

Brittas questioned whether India was not giving equal treatment to both countries, to which Jaishankar responded, "The question of equitable treatment to two countries one of whom has provided inputs and one of whom has not, does not arise." The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) last month said that a high-level committee had been constituted to look into the matter related to the assassination attempt of the Khalistani terrorist after US shared certain inputs.

Alleged murder plot of Khalistani terrorist

Earlier, US federal prosecutors indicted Nikhil Gupta, 52, for working with an Indian government employee in the foiled plot to kill Pannun. The US prosecutors informed a Manhattan court that authorities in the Czech Republic arrested and detained Gupta -- a claim that the Indian official vehemently rejected but raised "grave concerns" over the matter.

According to the US Department of Justice, Gupta is an Indian national and was an associate of CC-1, who hired Gupta to carry out the task. Not much is known yet about him, except that he was arrested and detained by Czech authorities on June 30 this year "pursuant to the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic".

In response, India said that the individual, who has been indicted in the United States for the failed assassination plot of a Khalistani leader in New York, has been linked to an Indian official, which is "a matter of concern" and asserted that this was against the policy of the Indian government.

Shortly after the indictment, Trudeau called on India to cooperate with India more seriously in the ongoing investigation regarding Nijjar. "The news coming out of the United States further underscores what we've been talking about from the very beginning: which is India needs to take this seriously... The Indian government needs to work with us to ensure that we're getting to the bottom of this. This is not something that anyone can take lightly," he said.

The MEA replied by asserting that Canada had consistently "given space to anti-India extremists and violence" and called on the Trudeau government to live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention. 

"So far as Canada is concerned, we have said that they have consistently given space to anti-India extremists and violence, and that is actually the heart of the issue. Our diplomatic representatives in Canada have borne the brunt of this. So, we expect the Government of Canada to live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations. We have also seen interference by Canadian diplomats in our internal affairs and that is unacceptable," said MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi.

The indictment against Gupta reportedly mentioned a "big target" in Canada during one phone call days before unidentified gunmen shot and killed Nijjar. Gupta also told the police informant that they had "four jobs" to finish before June 29 — one in New York and "three in Canada".

FBI director to visit India

After US Deputy National Security Adviser Jonathan Finer recently raised the Pannun case with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, Indian NSA Ajit Doval and Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra in New Delhi, the Director of the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Christopher Wray is set to visit India amid the probe.

The latest announcement from US envoy to India Eric Garcetti came during an event in New Delhi, where he claimed America is giving top priority to India. "There’s a great awakening in America. It’s happening in business and government, where everybody’s like ‘I got to understand India," said Garcetti.

“This was the Number 1 country she [US Secretary of Treasury Janet Yellen] went to outside the United States. Four times this year. The Secretary of State [Antony Blinken] just came here for the third time. Secretary of Defense [Lloyd Austin] for the second time. The FBI director is here next week," he announced.

(with inputs from agencies)

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