Indian government officials interfered in Conservative Party's leadership race: report

A CSIS intelligence assessment from October 2022 detailed efforts from foreign governments, including India and China, to influence Canadian elections.

Indian government officials interfered in Conservative Party's leadership race: report
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In 2022, Indian government agents reportedly interfered with the Conservative Party's leadership race and bragged about funding "a number of politicians at all levels of government," according to CSIS.

The Bureau recently reported on an intelligence assessment by the Canadian intelligence agency from October 2022, detailing interference operations in Canadian elections by states including China and India.

While Chinese operations have received more attention and pose a greater threat, the report underlines that some of the same tactics are being used by the Indian government. 

According to the CSIS report, “A body of CSIS reporting since 2020 indicates that a Canadian GoI [Government of India] proxy agent continues to claim that they are providing electoral support – including significant amounts of money – to a number of politicians at all levels of government.”

CSIS states that the unnamed government agent is a "gatekeeper" for community support of the kind that electoral candidates rely on in electoral districts with high numbers of South Asian voters. 

The report also suggests that the Indian government tried to influence the outcome of the Conservatives' leadership race. "Recent CSIS reporting indicates that a proxy agent claims the Government of India is providing support to an elected Canadian politician’s campaign for the leadership of a political party in Canada, by securing party memberships for that campaign," it reads. The elected official wasn't identified.

A different leadership candidate, who took a policy position that contradicted Indian strategic interests, was also reportedly told that he "cannot attend any Indian community events or events hosted by the [Consulate]."

“This example [of election interference] highlights the degree of influence some foreign states can have over diaspora communities, acting as gatekeepers between elected officials and community organizations,” the report states.

While it's alleged that Indian agents purchased party memberships in order to sway the outcome of the leadership race, the Conservatives say they aren't aware of the allegations in the CSIS report. 

“Party memberships purchased during the last leadership race could only be purchased with a personal credit card, personal cheque or Canadian bank-issued money order,” says Conservative director of communications Sarah Fischer. “Unlike the Liberal Party, the Conservative Party does not hand out free memberships.”

The foreign interference inquiry, which has hearings set to take place next month, isn't mandated to investigate foreign interference within party leadership races, as opposed to general elections. 

The Bureau's reporting also examines allegations that the Indian government is leveraging criminals to target Sikh activists abroad.

In a recently unsealed indictment, the U.S. government has accused Nikhil Gupta, an international drug trafficker, of racketeering and conspiracy to murder a United States citizen. Federal authorities allege that Gupta hired a hitman to kill a Sikh activist in New York City.

The indictment also suggests that the masked gunmen who murdered Khalistan-separatist and activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Vancouver on June 18 were directed by the same intelligence handler.

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