Historically, Pakistan has alleged that India targeted individuals who challenged its authority in Kashmir, yet the international community seldom gave these claims significant consideration.
The recent assertions by the Canadian government regarding the suspected participation of Indian agents in the assassination of Sikh leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar have garnered global interest and triggered apprehensions. Nijjar, whom India wanted for alleged militant actions, was fatally shot in British Columbia, Canada, earlier this year.
Pakistan has quickly injected itself into the dispute between India and Canada over the murder. In reaction to Canada’s accusations, Pakistan has formulated its own perspective by connecting the incident to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist ideology and comparable actions in Pakistan. Pakistan’s interim Prime Minister Anwaar-ul-Haq Kakar recently stated at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, “These proponents of Hindutva are gaining confidence in such a way that they are extending their influence beyond the region.”
Expanding on this, Pakistan has stated that India’s “international network of killings” has become widespread. Pakistan’s Foreign Secretary, Cyrus Qazi, has called on the global community to recognize the actions of a country seen as an essential partner.
Islamabad maintains that Canada’s criticism of the Indian government regarding the Sikh activist’s killing doesn’t surprise because it aligns with Pakistan’s perception of India’s actions in other regions.
Mumtaz Zehra Baloch, a spokesperson for the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, informed reporters last week that Pakistan has consistently faced “focused assassinations and espionage” activities conducted by Indian intelligence services.
In previous instances, Pakistan has alleged that India was involved in plotting the assassination of individuals perceived as a challenge to New Delhi’s approach toward integrating Jammu and Kashmir. Pakistan made public a dossier outlining India’s alleged role in an attack in Lahore in June 2021. According to reports, Pakistan accuses the Indian intelligence service of orchestrating this attack to eliminate Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, the detained leader of the banned Jama’at-ud-Dawah (JUD) organization.
In a recent incident earlier this month, the former leader of JuD, who had connections with armed groups in Kashmir, was fatally shot and killed in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.
Pakistan’s strong reaction is partly driven by the belief that similar targeted killings, allegedly orchestrated by India within Pakistan, have not received sufficient global recognition. Pakistan perceives the recent incident in Canada as an opportunity to bring its concerns to the international stage. By highlighting the assassination of the Sikh leader in Canada, Pakistan aims to persuade the international community that this killing is not an isolated occurrence but rather part of India’s consistent pattern of behaviour.
However, it remains uncertain whether Pakistan’s strong stance against India following the murder in Canada will yield diplomatic benefits. Even if India were responsible for the assassination, Dr. Zainab Ahmed, who heads the Department of International Relations at Lahore Garrison University, suggests that the nations involved in the conflict are largely beyond Pakistan’s diplomatic influence and capacity. According to Dr. Zainab, who heads the Department of International Relations at Lahore Garrison University, it’s likely that the US and Western nations are seeking a means to calm tensions between Canada and India, aiming for a discreet resolution.
Ahmed further emphasized that Pakistan’s foreign policy lacks sufficient influence to capture the attention of global leaders regarding its allegations against India. She stated that it’s a moment for Pakistan to introspect and suggested that to compel the world to give credence to its legitimate claims, Pakistan must address its internal matters effectively.
In any event, from Pakistan’s perspective, India has grown audacious in conducting assassinations on a worldwide scale. In conversation with media sources, a Pakistani security official likened the incident in Canada to “India’s Jamal Khashoggi moment.” The official asserted that “the world is now openly witnessing India’s real face, as Pakistan has long perceived it.”
Describing the incident in Canada as “India’s Jamal Khashoggi moment” means drawing a parallel between this particular event and the killing of Jamal Khashoggi. Jamal Khashoggi was a Saudi journalist assassinated in the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul in 2018. His killing attracted widespread international attention and condemnation, and it was seen as an example of a government (in that case, Saudi Arabia) using extraterritorial means to eliminate perceived threats or critics.
In the context of the Canada incident, it suggests that Pakistan sees India’s alleged involvement in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar as a significant and controversial event with potential global repercussions, much like the Jamal Khashoggi case. It implies that Pakistan believes this incident reveals a darker side of India’s actions beyond its borders and aims to highlight it internationally.
The official cautioned that India’s efforts to eliminate individuals in Pakistan could escalate as the country approaches its general elections.
Pakistan officials are worried about the potential for India to engage in risky actions within Pakistan too. He cautioned that such a scenario could have dire consequences for regional stability and lead to conflicts with India.