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India Rejects Allegations of Election Interference, Points Finger at Ottawa

Canada initiated a formal enquiry of India's alleged role in interfering with the country's elections. In response, New Delhi vehemently refuted the accusations, saying that it was actually Ottawa that had interfered in India's internal affairs.
Justin Trudeau and Narendra Modi. Photo: Prime Minister's Office/Wikimedia Commons,  GODL-India

New Delhi: After Canada’s public inquiry into foreign interference in elections formally began to examine India’s role, New Delhi rebuffed the allegations and contended that it was Ottawa that interfered in the internal affairs of the South Asian nation.

Over two weeks ago, Canada’s Public Inquiry into Foreign Interference in Federal Electoral Processes and Democratic Institutions announced that it has requested the Canadian government to provide information “relating to alleged interference by India related to the 2019 and 2021 elections”.

Upon its launch in September 2023, the Commission explicitly stated its intention to investigate interference by China, Russia, and unspecified “foreign actors” in the initial phase of inquiries. In the recent press release, expanded its investigation to include India.

On Thursday, India’s Ministry of External Affairs expressed outrage over the inclusion of India.

“We have seen media reports about the Canadian Commission enquiring into foreign interference. We strongly reject such baseless allegations of Indian interference in Canadian elections. It is not Government of India’s policy to interfere in democratic processes of other countries,” said MEA spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal at the weekly media briefing.

Furthermore, he countered by accusing Ottawa of meddling in India’s domestic politics. “In fact, it is Canada which has been interfering in our internal affairs. We have been raising this issue regularly with them. We continue to call on Canada to take effective measures to address our core concerns,” he said.

A Canadian outlet had last week published a declassified intelligence briefing from February 2023 which said that China and India had both interfered in last two general elections.

In September 2023, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged India’s involvement in the shooting of a Canadian citizen, Harpreet Singh Nijjar, who had been designated as a Khalistani terrorist by Indian security agencies.

India vehemently refuted the accusation, resulting in the expulsion of one diplomat from each nation. Additionally, India suspended visa services for Canadian nationals, which were later resumed after approximately one month.

In response to India’s demand for diplomatic parity, Ottawa had to recall over 40 diplomats. India had then claimed that Canadian diplomats were interfering in Indian politics but had not shared any public proof.

However, Indian officials had repeatedly pointed to statements made by Prime Minister Trudeau during the farmers protest in India as compelling evidence of Canadian interference. Moreover, India has expressed frustration with Canada’s perceived lack of action in curbing the activities of pro-Khalistani groups within its borders.

The Canadian Commission is scheduled to issue an interim report by May 3, followed by the delivery of its final report by the year’s end.

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