As pressure mounted on Canada to release evidence of an extraterritorial assassination on its soil, media reports indicated that the government is believed to be in possession of intelligence linking Indian officials and diplomats to the killing.
Among the trove of information gathered in the months-long investigation into the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar were communications involving Indian officials, including Indian diplomats working inside Canada, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported on Thursday.
Multiple national security sources alleged that Indian officials did not dispute the allegations in closed-door meetings with Canadian officials. The Guardian could not independently verify the CBC’s reporting.
In recent weeks, the head of Canada’s intelligence agency and the national security and intelligence adviser have travelled to India in a bid to gain Delhi’s cooperation in the killing of Nijjar, a prominent Sikh activist fatally shot in a parking lot in June.
The revelations from Canada’s national broadcaster come amid mounting domestic pressure to release more information into the “credible allegations” first outlined by prime minister Justin Trudeau in parliament earlier this week. Trudeau has not confirmed his government will share the evidence.
Speaking to reporters at the United Nations in New York on Thursday, Trudeau said he was not seeking to escalate the row between the two countries and called on India to cooperate with Canadian authorities to “uncover the truth” behind the killing.
“We are not looking to provoke or cause problems, but we are unequivocal about the rule of law and unequivocal about protecting Canadians and standing up for our values,” he said. “That is why we call upon the government of India to work with us to establish processes, to uncover the truth of the matter and allow justice and accountability to be served.”
The top national security adviser in the US said the allegations were a “matter of concern” for the White House” and that officials were in talks with their Indian counterparts.
“There’s not some special exemption you get for actions like this,” Jake Sullivan told reporters. “Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles and we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.”
Some of the intelligence was provided to Canada from one of its allies and several members of the Five Eyes leadership – an intelligence-sharing network that includes the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand – brought up the issue with Indian prime minister Narendra Modi at the recent G20 summit in New Delhi, according to the Financial Times.
The row escalated further on Thursday as India announced a suspension to visa processing in Canada, halting the travel plans of thousands, including a large diaspora population.
“You are aware of the security threats being faced by our consulates in Canada,” Arindam Bagchi, a spokesperson for India’s foreign ministry, said at a media briefing. “This has disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly our high commission and consulate are temporarily unable to process visa applications. We will be reviewing the situation on a regular basis.”
Canada’s deputy prime minister Chrystia Freeland appeared to reject similar retaliatory measures.
“This is not about geopolitics. This is about Canada, the safety of Canadians in Canada. This is about the rule of law,” she told reporters.
India has rejected the allegations as “absurd” and in the past few days, the two countries have engaged in a tit-for-tat expulsion of top diplomats.
Bagchi suggested Canada was a place where “elements linked to organised crime, linked to terrorists, secessionists or extremists who are operating freely, are being politically condoned, they seem to have a free run”.
Citing “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate crimes”, India updated its travel advisory for Canada, warning its citizens residing and travelling in the country to take “extreme caution”.
Canada’s own advisory for its nationals travelling to India includes warnings of a “threat of terrorist attack throughout the country”.
The two sides announced they were also suspending trade talks valued at tens of billion of dollars, which officials in both India and Canada had previously suggested were close to concluding.