Nijjar & Pannun Cases: India demands evidence, US goes silent and Moscow backs New Delhi


External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar addresses a media conference (ANI)

The Canadian Police on Saturday arrested a fourth suspect over his alleged involvement in the killing of Nijjar who was shot outside the Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18

Our Bureau
New Delhi/Washington, DC/Moscow

As the controversy over the alleged murder plots in the US and Canada refuses to die down, External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has once again denied receiving any evidence implicating Indian nationals’ involvement in the killing in Canada of India-designated terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

Responding to media queries here, Jaishankar stated, “I also read that another arrest has been made. If that person is an Indian national, then usually by consular practice, you inform the government or the embassy of the country of origin. But beyond that, we have long maintained that if anything, any event in Canada, any violence in Canada, has any evidence or information which is relevant to be investigated in India, we are open to investigating it.”

He emphasised that while any Indian national’s arrest would usually prompt notification to the government or embassy, no specific evidence justifying investigation by Indian agencies has been received to date.

“But to date, we have never received anything which is specific and worthy of being pursued by our investigative agencies. And I’m not aware anything has changed in the last few days in that regard,” the External Affairs Minister said at a media interaction.

The Canadian Police on Saturday arrested a fourth suspect over his alleged involvement in the killing of Nijjar, Canada-based CBC News reported. Nijjar was killed outside the Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia, on June 18. The accused has been identified as Amandeep Singh (22).

According to the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team (IHIT) in British Columbia, Singh was already in the custody of Peel Regional Police in Ontario for unrelated firearms charges. “IHIT pursued the evidence and gained sufficient information for the BC Prosecution Service to charge Amandeep Singh with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder,” the police statement said.

The police said that Singh is an Indian national, splitting his time in Canada in Brampton, Ontario; Surrey, British Columbia, and Abbotsford, British Columbia, as reported by CBC News. Investigators haven’t given any further details of the arrest, citing ongoing investigations and court processes.

This comes days after the Canadian police arrested three Indian nationals — Karan Brar, Kamalpreet Singh and Karanpreet Singh — in Edmonton. The trio was charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder in relation to the homicide.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was designated a terrorist by India’s National Investigation Agency in 2020, was shot and killed as he came out of a Gurdwara in Surrey in June last year. The attack was described as ‘highly coordinated’ and involved six men and two vehicles. Notably, the Canadian police has not given any evidence of any link to India, as was being speculated in Canadian media.

Nijjar’s killing triggered diplomatic tensions between Canada and India after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged India’s hand in the killing — a claim New Delhi has rejected, calling it “absurd” and “motivated.”

Earlier this week, the Ministry of External Affairs reiterated that Canada has not provided any “specific” evidence or relevant information in the Hardeep Singh Nijjar killing case and that no “formal communication” has been provided to India over the arrests of three Indians allegedly involved in the matter.”No specific or relevant evidence or information has been given to us in this matter. Canada has informed us about the arrest. But we have not got any formal communication…” MEA Spokesperson said on the arrest of three Indian nations in Canada in Nijjar killing.

Members of JAGO party and Sikh Welfare Organisation protest march against Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in New Delhi (ANI File Photo)

On being asked if India has given consular access to the three Indians arrested in the Nijjar Killing case, the MEA said that they have not received any request from the Canadian side for the same as the accused have not asked for the consular access yet.

Meanwhile, stating that the investigation into the alleged plot to assassinate Sikh separatist leader Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is an ongoing legal matter, the US State Department said it “won’t speak” until “allegations are proved” before a jury.

Gurpatwant Singh Pannun is an India-designated terrorist who holds American and Canadian citizenship. “There’s a publicly returned indictment that contains alleged facts or allegations. Until they’re proven before a jury that anyone can go and read, I won’t speak to them here because, of course, it’s an ongoing legal matter, and I’ll leave it at that,” spokesperson Matthew Miller said at a State Department briefing on Thursday (local time).

Miller’s remarks came in response to a media query on Pannun’s case investigation.

Notably, a Czech court has ruled that Prague can extradite to the United States the 52-year-old Indian, Nikhil Gupta, who is accused by the United States of involvement in the alleged attempt to kill Sikh separatist leader Pannun, a Czech-based media outlet Seznam Zpravy reported, citing judicial database Infosoud.

As per the US Justice Department indictment, Indian national Nikhil Gupta is currently in custody and has been charged with murder-for-hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Czech authorities arrested and detained Gupta on June 30, 2023, under the bilateral extradition treaty between the United States and the Czech Republic.

The US Justice Department had claimed that an Indian government employee, who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, had recruited Indian national Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to allegedly assassinate Panun, which was foiled by US authorities.

In a related development, rubbishing the allegations by the US on India for a foiled assassination plot against pro-Khalistan radical Gurpatwant Singh Pannun, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that Washington has not yet provided any reliable evidence of the involvement of Indian citizens in the case.

“According to the information we have, Washington has not yet provided any reliable evidence of the involvement of Indian citizens in the preparation of the murder of a certain GS Pannun. Speculation on this topic in the absence of evidence is unacceptable,” the official spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova said at a briefing on Wednesday (local time).

She said that the US does not understand the national mentality, as well as the historical context of the development of the Indian state and it disrespects India as a state.

Zakharova’s remarks came in response to a media query on Moscow’s reaction to accusations against an Indian official of a foiled “assassination” plot, and the American news publication ‘The Washington Post’ stating that India is trying to do the same as Russia and Saudi Arabia against its enemy.

“Regular unfounded accusations by the United States against New Delhi (we see that they groundlessly accuse not only India but also many other states) of violating religious freedoms are a reflection of the United States’ misunderstanding of the national mentality, the historical context of the development of the Indian state and disrespect for India as a state . I am sure that this also comes from the neocolonial mentality, the mentality of the colonial period, the period of the slave trade, and imperialism,” she said.

“This does not only apply to India. The reason is the desire to unbalance the internal political situation in India in order to complicate the general parliamentary elections taking place in the country. Of course, this is part of interference in India’s internal affairs,” she added.

The External Affairs Ministry, in April, had rejected a report in The Washington Post naming Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) official’s involvement in the alleged post to kill Khalistani terrorist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun in the US.

Describing it as an “unwarranted and unsubstantiated” imputation on a “serious matter” that is under investigation, Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) official spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal said the US media report was “speculative and irresponsible”.

In response to media queries on the report that appeared in Washington Post, a US national daily, Jaiswal said that a High-Level Committee set up by the Indian government is carrying out an investigation into the security concerns shared by the US government on networks of organized criminals, terrorists, and others.

“The report in question makes unwarranted and unsubstantiated imputations on a serious matter. There is an ongoing investigation of the High-Level Committee set up by the Government of India to look into the security concerns shared by the US government on networks of organised criminals, terrorists and others. Speculative and irresponsible comments on it are not helpful.”

Citing officials and a US indictment, the Washington Post report claimed that the RAW official identified as Vikram Yadav had directed Indian businessman Nikhil Gupta, to hire a hitman to kill Pannun outside his New York residence.

The US Justice Department has claimed that Indian government employee (named CC-1), who was not identified in the indictment filed in a federal court in Manhattan, recruited an Indian national named Nikhil Gupta to hire a hitman to carry out the assassination, which was foiled by US authorities, according to prosecutors.

Following this, MEA said that a case filed against an individual in a US court and allegedly linking him to an Indian official is a “matter of concern” and is contrary to government policy.

India has also set up a high-level committee to probe the matter.

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