The Indian government has formally taken up with Ottawa the matter of alleged Khalistani arms-training camp being operated in the Canadian province of British Columbia.
This was confirmed by official sources on Monday evening. New Delhi’s move comes on the heels of a report in an English daily that an individual identified as Hardeep Nijjar, a resident of the Vancouver suburb of Surrey, had taken over as chief of the Khalistan Terror Force and subsequently commenced the training activities near Mission City.
A spokesperson for Public Safety Canada, while not referring to a specific issue, said the “government of Canada monitors all potential threats and has robust measures in place to address them”.
“Canada’s security and law enforcement agencies work closely with allies and key partners,” the spokesperson added. “When the security and intelligence community receives credible warnings about a specific threat, they work with the appropriate partners to appropriately respond to the threat.”
These latest developments have added to the frustration of Indian officials, who have often complained that the issue of pro-Khalistan elements operating in Canadian territory has not been adequately addressed by authorities in that country. This is of particular concern at this time because of worries about the growth of such anti-India efforts prior to the assembly elections in Punjab, scheduled for early 2017.
In the past years, this matter was raised when then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh visited Toronto in 2010 for a G-20 summit and later when PM Narendra Modi was in Canada last year.
A declaration of Khalistan was once again sounded during a ‘nagar kirtan’ between Malton and Rexdale in the province of Ontario recently.
Meanwhile, the person named in the report, Surrey-based Nijjar, has denied any involvement in such activities and said he would discuss the matter with his lawyer. In an interview to the Vancouver Sun’s Kim Bolan, Nijjar said, “This is garbage — all the allegations. I am living here 20 years, right? Look at my record. There is nothing. I am a hard-worker. I own my own business in plumbing.”
He said the allegations had been “hard” on him and his family, and also confirmed in the interview that he had a firearms license.
“The government of Canada remains unwavering in its commitment to protect the safety and security of Canadians,” said the Public Safety Canada spokesperson in response to HT’s queries. “It will continue to take appropriate action to counter terrorist threats to Canada, its citizens and its interests around the world.”