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U.S. assassination attempt charges 'confirm' Trudeau's claims about India had 'real substance,' former national security advisers say

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The indictment of an Indian national for the attempted assassination of a Sikh separatist and dual U.S.-Canadian national “validates” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations that the Indian government may have been involved in the killing of a Canadian citizen as having “real substance,” according to two of Canada’s former national security advisers.

On Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Justice announced it charged Indian national Nikhil Gupta in June in connection with a failed attempt to assassinate a Sikh separatist leader on U.S. soil.

Gupta was also allegedly connected to and working under the direction of an Indian government employee in said “murder-for-hire,” according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The newly unsealed indictment reveals further significant details about the case, including its connection to the killing of another Sikh separatist leader and Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in B.C. in June.

In September, Trudeau addressed the House of Commons to say there were “credible allegations” the Indian government may have been involved in Nijjar’s murder.

India has denied the accusations, which spurred more than two months of tense relations between the two countries.

In a joint interview on CTV’s Question Period airing Sunday, Richard Fadden and Vincent Rigby told host Vassy Kapelos that the new information about the American charges give a certain level of credence to Trudeau’s accusations.

Meanwhile, India’s High Commissioner to Canada Sanjay Kumar Verma, also told Kapelos in an exclusive broadcast interview on CTV’s Question Period that aired Nov. 26, that India is cooperating with the Americans, but not the Canadians, because of a disparity between the information both countries have shared over the course of their respective investigations.

But when pressed at the time on whether Canada’s current national security adviser Jody Thomas shared any information with India during the nine days she visited that country in August and September, Verma said “conversations took place,” but no such “specific and relevant” “inputs” were provided.

“Conversations could have allegations, conversation could have some facts of the case, but allegations and facts do not make it specific and relevant,” he said. “So we need to have those facts.”

Rigby said the new information about the American case, specifically unsealing the indictment, “changes quite fundamentally” the argument from the Indian government that it is not cooperating with Canada’s investigation into Nijjar’s death because Canada has not shared enough “specific and relevant” information.

“So I think to a considerable degree, it does validate what the prime minister said, that at the very least, there are credible allegations of Indian complicity in the killing of Mr. Nijjar in Canada,” Rigby said, adding he finds Verma’s response “interesting.”

“At the end of the day, I'm not so sure it’s ‘Canada hasn't put the intelligence in front of the Indians,’ but I think it's more likely a case of ‘Canada's not the United States,’” he also said. “We're not a great power. And so we're treated a little bit differently.”

Rigby also said the prime minister’s accusations were like “the icing on the cake” after several years of strained relations between Canada and India.

Fadden — who is also a former CSIS director — agreed, saying “we’ve been told all along” that Canada and the United States have been sharing evidence and intelligence with each other, so he’s “operating on the assumption that much of what was in the indictment was made available to Canada.”

Fadden added it confirms “there was real substance” to Trudeau’s accusations in the House of Commons.

“So I think that the Indians are now going to have to recognize, particularly if they cooperate with the United States, and we continue our cooperation with the U.S., that the intelligence and the evidence is going to flow between our three countries,” he said.

“But I think we need to be realistic,” he also said. “What we need to do now, I think, is continue to push with our allies, to get India to realize this is not the way a democratic country based on the rule of law treats its allies.”

Fadden also touched on the issue’s larger implications for Canada’s now year-old Indo-Pacific Strategy.

Rigby agreed, saying the issue will become a “real test” for Foreign Affairs Minister Melanie Joly’s attempts at “pragmatic diplomacy” when it comes to the Indo-Pacific Strategy, because India is “in many respects, the linchpin” in that strategy and the region overall.

You can watch Fadden and Rigby’s full discussion in the video player at the top of this article.

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