Four Indian spies trying to curb Khalistan movement in Australia were secretly asked to leave: Report

The report by ABC News alleges that some of these 'intelligence officers' were posing as diplomats in the Indian High Commission in Australia.
Last Updated : 18 June 2024, 10:38 IST

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The Indian government's alleged actions against Khalistani separatists in foreign countries have ruffled feathers from Ottawa to Washington. To add to the woes of the Narendra Modi government, an investigative piece by Australian ABC News' Four Corners has now alleged that a similar plot had been brewing in the Quad partner country.

The report, titled Infiltrating Australia, claims that at least four Indian spies were asked by the Australian government to leave after it was found out that they had overstepped protocols to spy into the lives of the Indian diaspora in the country.

The report alleges that some of these 'intelligence officers' were posing as diplomats in the Indian High Commission in Australia.

Khalistani activist Harjinder Singh, who drives a taxi in Melbourne, spoke to the publication and said that he had received a call one night where the caller asked him to curb the Khalistan referendum in the country, and went on to warn him that if he does anything in the contrary, "the results will be bad".

He further alleged that another such call was made to him, following which Indian authorities even visited his parents' home back in Punjab, where they warned the latter that they had orders to kill anyone found plotting against the country.

Two months after this incident, another Khalistani activist, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, was executed in Vancouver outside a gurudwara, following which Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau accused the Indian government of orchestrating the hit. India has denied all such allegations and asked for concrete proof in this regard from Canada.

The report claims that Indian intelligence officers in Australia were trying to access sensitive defence-related information as well as the country's airport security protocols. It also accuses them of targetting politicians and a state police service.

The report quotes Australia’s intelligence chief Mike Burgess from 2021 when he said that his agency had dealt with a "nest of spies" who were "quietly and professionally" removed from the country.

While Four Corners confirmed in the report that "at least four" Indian intelligence officers were asked to leave Australia, reports surfaced in May 2024 that two were given a similar treatment back in 2020.

Four Corners says that these four individuals "left one by one" but does not specify whether they were among those asked to leave in 2020. However, the charges in both cases are the same.

The report claims that Harjinder Singh's situation is not an isolated incident, and that more Sikh separatists in Australia have been targetted by Indian officials. A number of Khalistani activists told the publication that Indian authorities visited their families back in Punjab with threats against their overseas activism.

Two claimed that they were detained when they visited India and one of them was not allowed to leave for Sydney for several days.

The report has also accused members of the Indian diaspora in Australia of trying to "infiltrate politics" in the country, starting with locals governments and then moving up to the federal parliament.

It says that one of the founding members of Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP)—Rahul Jethi—who holds influence in the Liberal Party's affairs in north-west Sydney, has been recruiting a rising number of Indian-Australians to branches of the party.

Jethi told the publication that he currently has no leadership role in the OFBJP, adding that his “responsibilities are the same as any Liberal Party office bearer”.

Up next, the report takes up the issue of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, or HSS, which is a sister group of the RSS working in Australia.

A former member of the HSS, Arjun Nidigallu, told the publication that he had joined the group on the behest of his parents in order to get a "cultural upbringing".

However, Arjun decided to quit the organisation after children enrolled there were being made to chant slogans that translate to "India belongs to the Hindus".

Among the co-authors of this investigative piece is one Avani Dias, who had in April 2024 claimed that she was "forced" to leave India after being denied a visa extension by the Modi government due to her coverage of Nijjar's killing.

With such allegations surfacing from different parts of the western world, it now remains to be seen how recently re-elected Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his trusted External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar respond.

Published 18 June 2024, 10:38 IST

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