Home >Politics >Policy >Jaspal Atwal row: India slams Justin Trudeau’s defence of Canadian official

New Delhi: India on Wednesday slammed Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s apparent defence of one of his officials who alleged Trudeau’s recent India visit was sabotaged by “factions" in the Indian government.

Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian Sikh convicted for trying to assassinate a Punjab minister in 1986, had attended an event hosted by the Canadian high commission for Trudeau in Mumbai and was photographed with his wife, sparking a furore. Following this, his invite for a second event—a dinner reception hosted by the Canadian high commission in Trudeau’s honour—was rescinded.

The storm over Atwal broke a day before Trudeau was to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It capped days of negative press over the Canadian PM’s visit, including speculation that Modi had not received Trudeau at the airport due to strains over the Canada’s ruling Liberal Party’s links with Sikh separatist organizations.

The Canadian press has been awash with reports this week that an unnamed Canadian official had pointed a finger at “factions in India" in a background briefing for Atwal’s presence at Trudeau’s events.

The Toronto Star in a report published on Monday said the unnamed official had said that “Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government who want to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India."

What made the Indian government see red was Trudeau’s defence of the official in Parliament: “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true," he said. This came in response to opposition questions demanding whether Trudeau stood by what his official had said.

In response, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar said the foreign ministry had “seen the recent exchange in the Parliament of Canada regarding two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian high commissioner, for functions hosted in honour of the Canadian Prime Minister in India."

“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," Kumar said.

Canada’s opposition Conservative MPs have named the unnamed official as Trudeau’s national security adviser Daniel Jean, and they pressed Trudeau for evidence of the Indian government having deliberately orchestrated the controversy, the Toronto Star said.

When asked by reporters in New Delhi how Atwal was granted an Indian visa given his “terrorist" tag, Indian foreign ministry spokesman Kumar had said that the Indian government was looking into the matter.

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