April 24th 2020: The humiliating exposure this week of a long-running major Indian intelligence operation in Canada will embarrass India’s spy agencies but, according to leading Sikh organisations, this should serve as another reminder to countries across the world that host Sikh diaspora communities to beware such unscrupulous activities.
Bribing foreign government officials to toe the Indian government line, infiltrating Sikh organisations (including Gurdwara management committees), and using paid media organisations to put out propaganda has long been the modus operandi of agencies such as India’s Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB), in their unrelenting effort to counter the Sikh struggle for self-determination. Similar methods have been used to silence the Kashmiri freedom struggle. However, a number of high-profile cases have shone a spotlight on these activities and, now that the targeting of government officials has been proven, it is time the international community took action to protect their own governmental systems as well as Sikhs residing in the affected countries.
Canadian Newspaper “Global News” has published the article by journalist Steward Bell highlighting Federal immigration proceedings in which an Indian, who has admitted he was “asked by the IB and RAW to perform various functions”. He allegedly met Indian intelligence more than 25 times over six years, most recently in May 2015 — a month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada. A Canadian official wrote to him saying “You stated that you were asked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government”. The letter continues “You stated that the guidance from RAW included that you were to provide financial assistance and propaganda material to politicians in order to exert influence over them”. The article notes that India has long sought to pressure Ottawa over the activism of Sikhs in Canada in advocating independence for India’s Sikh minority. It also points out that, whilst the Canadian government was not providing direct comment on that specific case, the Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office said the government was “concerned when any country shows destabilizing behavior, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems.” The full article can be seen at: https://globalnews.ca/news/6823170/canadian-politicians-targeted-indian-intelligence/
In a separate case Canada also reportedly recently banned an Ottawa company, with strong Indian links, from work related to the military or national security. Official documents show that that Canadian officials wrote to the company’s president saying: “This investigation has determined that since approximately 2000, you have had consistent contact with the Indian High Commission in Ottawa, including elements of the Indian government involved in information and intelligence collection activities in Canada”: https://globalnews.ca/news/6478679/ottawa-company-contact-indian-intelligence/
These cases follow closely on the heels of the conviction of two Indians by a German court earlier this year for spying on Sikh and Kashmiri groups in return for substantial payments by RAW. Further details of that case were published by the BBC and can be found at https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-50763008
Swaranjit Singh Khalsa, Coordinator of UN-NGO Council of World Sikh Parliament said “I have myself seen many incidents of Indian agencies interfering in America’s democratic process. He gave examples of emails sent by Indian organizations against the raising of the Sikh national flag, efforts by the Indian Consulate in New York calling library in Norwich, Connecticut to remove a Sikh Genocide Memorial, Indian government agents emailing senators not to pass Bill in Connecticut for recognition of “Sikh Genocide Remembrance Day” and their attempts to intervene in our Gurudwaras (Sikh place of worship). Khalsa said “Due to the unacceptable and persistent interference in Sikh affairs by Indian officials, their entry (in an official capacity) in to Gurdwaras throughout the Diaspora has been banned.” That ban hit India’s underhand activities hard: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/01/indian-officials-banned-sikh-gurdwaras-180110101549090.html
Ranjit Singh Srai, Coordinator of Sikh Self Determination Council of World Sikh Parliament, shared the Sikh experience in United Kingdom: “There has been decades of nefarious clandestine activity of this kind by Indian agencies and their paid stooges in the UK, but these recent official cases go beyond anecdotal significance. Aside from the more recent Canadian and German cases, a 2018 Ofcom ruling in the UK showed how blatant propaganda, against those advocating Sikh independence, by a broadcaster with strong Indian connections broke UK broadcasting rules”. The official Ofcom determination referred to can be found at: https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0020/122960/issue-363-broadcast-on-demand-bulletin.pdf
Ranjit Singh adds: “The Indian lobby has been hard at work in the UK to interfere in the UK Sikh community’s determined campaign for separate recognition and monitoring of Sikhs here as an ethnic group, for the specific purposes of relevant UK law and practice, even though India as no conceivable legitimacy to do so. Further, India has, especially since 2018, been actively putting pressure on UK authorities to ban Sikh protests outside the Indian High Commission in London, seemingly ignorant of the fact that the right to protest is a fundamental aspect of the democratic framework in this country”.
Sikh organisations worldwide have welcomed the exposure of such Indian interference in Sikh affairs and are following up by issuing advisories to governments requesting that they take effective measures to stamp out this unprincipled and unacceptable practice.
General secretaries World Sikh Parliament