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Indian community members get ‘extortion calls’ in Canada

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India expressed deep concern on Thursday (4) over reports indicating that certain members of the Indian community in the Canadian province of British Columbia received “extortion calls.”

The comments by External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Randhir Jaiswal came in response to a question at a media briefing. “It is a matter of concern… People getting extortion calls, especially Indian nationals, is a matter of serious concern,” he said.

At the same time, Jaiswal said he does not have exact details. India-Canada relations came under severe strain following Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations in September of a “potential” involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar outside a gurdwara in Surrey city on June 18.

New Delhi rejected Trudeau’s allegations as “absurd” and “motivated” and accused Canada of giving space to Khalistani extremists targeting India.

India has been asserting that its “core issue” with Canada remained that of the space given to separatists, terrorists, and anti-India elements in that country.

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“We have several issues to discuss (with Canada). We have been discussing issues regarding security situations etc. There was an issue about a temple which was attacked. The Canadian police thereafter went into investigation of the temple premises,” Jaiswal said.

He said the authorities later issued a statement saying that the person who had intruded was of unsound mind. Jaiswal cited the example to emphasize that there are issues to be discussed with Canada.

Asked about new Maldivian president Mohamed Muizzu likely to travel to China this month against the convention of making the first trip to India, Jaiswal said it is for the island nation to decide.

“This is a decision the Maldives has to take. We do not have any comments on that. It is for them to decide where they go and how they go about their international relations,” he said.

Muizzu, known to be close to China, has called for withdrawal of Indian military personnel from his country. To another query on questions being raised over the credibility of Bangladesh’s upcoming parliamentary elections, Jaiswal said it is an internal matter of that country.

“The elections in Bangladesh are the domestic affairs of Bangladesh. It is for the people of Bangladesh to decide,” he said.

Almost all opposition parties including Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and the Jamaat-e-Islami (Jamaat) are not participating in the polls.

To a separate question, Jaiswal said Venezuela has agreed to supply crude oil to ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) in return of dividend.

“We have been given to understand that there is now an understanding that Venezuela has agreed to provide crude oil in lieu of the dividend that they owe to OVL,” he said.

However, several technicalities are involved which will have to be looked into, he said.

Asked about possible impact on the Indian diamond industry on the G7’s sanction on Russian diamonds starting January 1, the MEA spokesperson did not give a direct reply.

“When it comes to the diamond industry, India is a big player in that and anything that happens in any part of the world has an impact on our industry. We do have concerns. But to be very specific to your question, I do not have all the details,” he said.

Asked about the Supreme Court’s Thursday order on a plea by Nikhil Gupta, who is accused by the US prosecutors of involvement in a conspiracy to kill a Sikh separatist, Jaiswal said: “We have not seen the order. So, it will not be fair to comment.”

The apex court rejected the plea for consular access moved by a family member of Indian national Gupta, who is in a Czech prison following the charges by the US relating to a foiled assassination attempt on Sikh separatist Gurpatwant Singh Pannun.

(PTI)

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