The Indian government on Wednesday said it had nothing to do with the presence of pro-Khalistan terrorist at an event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai and any suggestion to the contrary is “unacceptable and baseless”.

External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar made the remarks in response to a media query after reports that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had stood by a senior government official who floated the theory that “rogue political factions” in the Indian establishment “orchestrated” the embarrassing invitation to Atwal to make the Canadian government appear sympathetic to Sikh extremism.

“We have seen the exchange in Canadian Parliament on the two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian High Commissioner, for functions hosted in honour of the then visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India.

“Let me categorically state that the government of India, including security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told the media here.

Earlier, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had come out in support of a theory floated by an official of his government that Indian ‘agencies’ deliberately sabotaged the trip by granting visa to the pro-Khalistan terrorist Jaspal Atwal.

As per CBC news reports, when questioned by Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer about the ‘theory’, Trudeau responded by saying, “Our professional, non-partisan public service does high quality work and when one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true”.

In a background briefing arranged by the Canadian Prime Minister’s Office, a senior government official last week suggested that Atwal’s presence “was arranged by factions within the Indian government”.

The Canadian media identified the official as Trudeau’s National Security Adviser Daniel Jean. The opposition pressed Trudeau to say whether he agreed with Jean’s “conspiracy theory”.

Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation when he was convicted of attempt to murder of Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986.

Sidhu was shot at twice on a road and survived, but was later assassinated in India. A judge called it “an act of terrorism” and sentenced Atwal and three others to 20 years in prison. . Atwal is said to have been active in Canadian politics in recent years.

Atwal controversy

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had courted controversy during his visit to India this month after the Canadian High Commission had sent an invitation for dinner with him to Atwal. The invitation was later rescinded following the controversy.

The invite sent to Atwal read: “His Excellency Nadir Patel, High Commissioner for Canada to India is pleased to invite Jaspal Atwal to a dinner reception celebrating Canada-India ties on the occasion of the visit of The Right Hounourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.”

On the issue of Atwal’s invitation, Canadian PM Trudeau had said that the matter was extremely serious. He had informed that a Member of Parliament Randeep S Sarai had included him and that the invitation has now been revoked.

“We take this extremely seriously. He should never have received an invitation. As soon as we received the info we rescinded it, a member of Parliament had included this individual,” he said earlier.

Shockingly, pictures of Atwal along with the Canadian PM’s wife, Sophie Trudeau as well as Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi at a function in Mumbai on 20 February have also gone viral on social media.

Atwal, who lives in Canada came to India on 11 February in his personal capacity and not along with Trudeau’s official entourage, reports said.

Following massive outrage after the news leaked in the media, his invite was revoked.

Also read | Convicted Khalistani activist Jaspal Atwal no longer in MHA blacklist