The Indian government says any suggestion it was behind the presence of a convicted attempted assassin at a dinner held during the visit by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week is “baseless and unacceptable.”
In a statement issued Wednesday morning, a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said there are no grounds to suggest it had anything to do with an invitation issued to Jaspal Atwal, who was convicted in 1986 in the attempted assassination of a visiting Indian politician during a trip to Vancouver Island. Atwal was then blacklisted from travelling to India.
Atwal was not vetted prior to appearing at a public event in India in which he posed for photos with Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau and several members of the Trudeau cabinet. He also wasn’t vetted before receiving an invitation from Liberal MP Randeep Sarai to attend a dinner being held by the High Commissioner of Canada to India held to mark the end of the visit. Sarai resigned his post as Liberal Pacific caucus chair Tuesday night over the incident.
WATCH BELOW: Convicted attempted murderer Jaspal Atwal attended events during Trudeau India tour
A source later suggested to Global News and other media outlets that Atwal’s presence and the mysterious decision to remove him from the Indian government’s blacklist just months before Trudeau’s trip might have been co-ordinated by certain Indian factions to scuttle the prime minister’s trip.
Those allegations have not been proven and no specific evidence was given to support the suggestion.
In question period on Monday and Tuesday, Conservative critics demanded to know who the source was and why they had spoken to the media on the matter.
Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer called those remarks a “conspiracy theory.”
Trudeau, however, backed the official.
“Our professional non-partisan 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,” he said.
WATCH BELOW: Trudeau questioned about bizarre press meeting on Jaspal Atwal
Global News made several attempts to contact the Indian High Commission in Canada to clarify the remarks and ask for context but received no responses over the past week.
Now though, the Indian Ministry of External Affairs says the suggestions it was involved are not true.
“We have seen the recent exchange in the Parliament of Canada regarding two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian high commissioner, for functions hosted in honour of the Canadian prime minister in India,” said Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the Ministry of External Affairs.
“Let me categorically state that the government of India, including the 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.”
Intended to be an opportunity to tout closer Canada-India ties on business and trade, the visit quickly made headlines — but likely not for the reason the Canadian government had hoped.
Trudeau and his family were criticized for their consistent wearing of Indian traditional clothing during the trip and opposition critics argued that the trip had too much fluff and not enough substance.
As well, Trudeau and his ministers immediately found themselves facing accusations that they are too soft on Sikh extremism and repeatedly throughout the visit stressed that while the government supports a “united India,” Canadians are free to hold any number of personal views.