TORONTO (AP) — The allegation of India’s involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally, a Canadian official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The official said the communications involved Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance, which in addition to Canada includes the U.S., Britain, Australia and New Zealand.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly, did not say which ally provided intelligence or give specific details of what was contained in the communications or how they were obtained.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported details of the intelligence.
Earlier Thursday, India told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff and stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens as a rift widened between the once-close allies over Ottawa’s allegation that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of the Canadian citizen.
Ties between the two countries — key strategic partners in security and trade — have plunged to their lowest point in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination of the Sikh separatist activist in June in a Vancouver suburb.
Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Canadian citizen who had been wanted by India for years, was gunned down outside the temple he led in the city of Surrey. Nijjar, a plumber, was born in India but became a Canadian citizen in 2007.
Speaking on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation he faced.
“There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with," he said. “We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”
The bombshell Monday allegation by Trudeau set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations “absurd.”
Canada has yet to provide any public evidence to back Trudeau's allegations, and Canada's U.N. ambassador, Bob Rae ,indicated Thursday that it might not come very soon. “This is very early days,” Rae told reporters at the United Nations, insisting that while facts will emerge, they must “come out in the course of the pursuit of justice.”
"That’s what we call the rule of law in Canada,” he said.
On Thursday, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced that visa services had been suspended until further notice. The BLS Indian Visa Application Center gave no further details.
The suspension means Canadians who don’t already have visas will not be able to travel to India until services resume. Canadians are among the top travelers to India. In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues.
“Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications,” Bagchi told reporters. "We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis."
He gave no details on the alleged threats.
The announcement quickly rippled across Canada, especially among people with ties to India.
Sukhwinder Dhillon, a 56-year-old grocery store owner in Montreal, said he had a trip planned to his birthplace in India to see family and sort out his deceased father’s estate. Dhillon, who came to Canada in 1998, said he makes the trip back every two or three years, and he has lost two people in his immediate family since he was last home.