LONDON: Indian intelligence agents working for Research & Analysis Wing (RAW) and Intelligence Bureau (IB) attempted to use money and disinformation to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians and falsely link Pakistan and its diaspora with “terrorism” through well-funded lobbying, according to a highly sensitive government document.
The document shows that Canadian security officials suspected India’s two main intelligence branches had asked an Indian citizen to sway politicians in this country into supporting Indian government interests, Global News reported.
The paper said the RAW and IB were behind the operation since 2009.
It was in September 2017 when Geo and The News for the first time exposed how Indian spy agencies were involved in targeting Pakistan through fake campaigns and fake people, using heavy funding. In three investigative articles in The News, published in The News/Geo/Jang in middle of September 2017, and a 12-minute report on Aaj Shehzeb Khanzada Kay Saath, evidence of India’s dirty campaigning against Pakistan was laid bare.
A Canada government official said the government was “concerned when any country shows destabilising behavior, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems”.
The disclosure was made in Federal Court proceedings involving an Indian national accused by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of espionage on behalf of Indian spy agencies.
Identified in court records only as “A B,” the man is the editor-in-chief of an unnamed Indian newspaper. His wife and son are Canadian citizens.
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 and started carrying out tasks for his intelligence handlers. He has told the court that he had met Indian intelligence spies only as an editor. The unnamed man has confirmed that he was “asked by the IB and RAW to perform various functions”. The court papers say that Indian spy agencies wanted him to “act as an unofficial lobbyist or diplomat”.
“You stated that you were tasked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government,” according to a letter sent to him by an immigration official.
“You stated that you were told to identify random Caucasian politicians and attempt to direct them into supporting issues that impacted India,” the letter continued.
“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.”
One of his tasks was “to convince politicians that funding from Canada was being sent to Pakistan to support terrorism,” according to the letter, dated May 30, 2018.
According to court papers, the security screening investigation was triggered when he applied to immigrate to Canada.
1.2 million Canadians are of Indian descent. India has always suspected thousands of Sikhs, living in Canada, of supporting Khalistan movement and seeking independence from India.
Allegations made against RAW in a Canadian court are especially embarrassing for India because only in December 2019 a German court sentenced an Indian couple after they admitted to spying on Kashmiri and Sikh freedom groups for the Indian foreign intelligence service RAW.
Court documents said the couple, named only as Manmohan S and his wife Kanwal Jit K, were paid more than €7,000 (£6,000) for passing on information.
Manmohan S was given an 18-month suspended prison sentence for espionage while his wife received a hefty fine.
The court in Frankfurt was told that Manmohan S, 51, was recruited by RAW in 2015 and asked to spy on Kashmiri freedom groups.
"The accused reported on the internal affairs of the Sikh temples in Cologne and Frankfurt, as well as on protest events in the Sikh community," a court statement said.
He attended regular meetings with an Indian intelligence officer from July 2017 and was paid €200 a month for the information he provided.
Also in December 2019, it emerged that a global network of pro-Indian fake websites and think-tanks was established by RAW across Europe aimed at influencing decision-making in Europe in favour of India and to oppose Pakistan.
The coordinated network of 265 sites operates across 65 countries, according to a report by EU Disinfo Lab, a Brussels-based NGO. The network was also found to involve groups responsible for anti-Pakistan lobbying events in Europe.
"More than the fake media outlets alone, it is their combination with the fake NGOs that's really worrying because it provides a mirage of online and grassroots support to a cause. That's exactly where the disinformation lies," Alexandre Alaphilippe, executive director of EU Disinfo Lab, said.