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Canadian politicians were targets of Indian intelligence covert influence operation: document – Global News

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Indian intelligence agencies attempted to use money and disinformation to “covertly influence” Canadian politicians, according to a highly sensitive government document obtained by Global News.

The document shows that Canadian security officials suspected India’s two main intelligence branches had asked an Indian citizen to sway politicians in this country into supporting Indian government interests.

The Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) and Indian Intelligence Bureau (IB) were allegedly behind the operation, which began in 2009, the document said.

Public Safety Minister Bill Blair’s office declined to comment on the case but said the government was “concerned when any country shows destabilizing behavior, including interference in other countries’ democratic systems.”


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The alleged foreign influence operation was disclosed in Federal Court proceedings involving an Indian national accused by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service of espionage.

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Identified in court records only as “A.B.,” the man is the editor-in-chief of an unnamed Indian newspaper. His wife and son are Canadian citizens.

He allegedly met Indian intelligence more than 25 times over six years, most recently in May 2015 — a month after Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada.

He denied allegations he had been “covertly” “tasked” by Indian “handlers,” and said he had only met the intelligence agencies in is capacity as an editor.






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But he did not dispute being “asked by the IB and RAW to perform various functions,” according to the court. The agencies wanted him to “act as an unofficial lobbyist or diplomat,” although he said he had refused to work for them.

“You stated that you were tasked by RAW to covertly influence Canadian government representatives and agencies on behalf of the Indian government,” according to a letter sent to him by an immigration official.

“You stated that you were told to identify random Caucasian politicians and attempt to direct them into supporting issues that impacted India,” the letter continued.

“You stated that the guidance from RAW included that you were to provide financial assistance and propaganda material to politicians in order to exert influence over them.”

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One of his tasks was allegedly “to convince politicians that funding from Canada was being sent to Pakistan to support terrorism,” according to the letter, dated May 30, 2018.

The security screening investigation was triggered when he applied to immigrate to Canada.

Prof. Stephanie Carvin said while India had long been active in the country, the case was a rare example of its interference with Canadian elected officials.

“To my mind, this is one of the first public examples of evidence of clandestine foreign influence targeted at Canadian politicians” said the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs expert.

The allegation of Indian meddling follows the release last month of a National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP) report on foreign interference.

The report acknowledged that China, Russia and other states were conducting foreign interference activities in Canada and that “elected and public officials across all orders of government” were being targeted.

It added that 1.2 million Canadians were of Indian descent, and that some communities were “vulnerable to foreign interference either as targets or as a means of undermining Canadian values and freedoms.”

“A great deal of foreign interference has the goal of creating a single narrative or consistent message that helps to ensure the survival and prosperity of the foreign state,” the report added.

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Carvin said it was difficult to know if Indian foreign interference had any impact on Canadian policy.

“But the fact is, the success of clandestine foreign influence operations are not the point — it is the fact that states are trying to engage in these activities.”

“The recent NSICOP report on clandestine foreign interference does not name India but it does make note of the fact that there is a large Indian population in Canada,” the national security expert said.

“This suggests that it was one of the countries that our national security and intelligence agencies are concerned with. But again, this is the first time I have seen public information which suggests that these operations are going outside the Canadian South Asian community.”






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RAW is India’s external intelligence service, while the IB is its domestic intelligence agency.

India has long sought to pressure Ottawa over what it alleges to be continued support within Canada for violent extremists advocating independence for India’s Sikh minority.

It has also campaigned against neighbouring Pakistan over its failure to curb terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, which attacked Mumbai in 2008, killing more than 160.

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Canada refused to allow A.B. into the country on the grounds he was engaged in espionage, but the court overturned that decision because it was based on a summary of his alleged statements rather than a transcript.

The court said the decision to exclude him from Canada rested largely on an immigration officer’s finding that it was implausible he did not supply information to Indian intelligence officers, given how frequently he met them.

“However, A.B. is a journalist and editor-in-chief of a newspaper. It is not inconceivable that he would meet with government sources every other month while maintaining his journalistic independence,” the court ruled.

In accusing him of espionage, the immigration officer had relied on an “undated and unattributed” summary of his interview with Canadian authorities, which the court ruled was unreasonable.

Stewart.Bell@globalnews.ca

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Politics – The Economist

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Police in Hong Kong made the first arrests under a draconian national-security law imposed from Beijing. Hong Kongers can now be jailed for life for vaguely defined crimes such as “subversion” or “conspiring” with anyone abroad to provoke “hatred” of the communist regime. Mainland secret police can now operate in Hong Kong. America’s House of Representatives unanimously passed a bill to put sanctions on banks that do business with Chinese officials who implement the crackdown. See article.

Boris Johnson reiterated his promise that Hong Kongers who were born before 1997, when the territory was handed back to China, could settle in Britain. The handover agreement back then stipulated that the city would retain its basic freedoms until at least 2047. See article.

Following months of talks, the UN Security Council passed a resolution calling for a 90-day global ceasefire to allow war-torn areas to battle covid-19.

India banned 59 apps developed by China’s tech giants, including TikTok, accusing them of threatening the country’s security. The apps have hundreds of millions of users in India. See article.

A terrorist outfit seeking independence for Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest province, claimed responsibility for an attack on the stock exchange in Karachi. The assailants killed three people before they were shot dead by police.

Iran issued an arrest warrant for Donald Trump. It asked Interpol for help in detaining him and 35 others it accuses of involvement in the drone strike that killed Qassem Suleimani in January. Suleimani was an Iranian general who oversaw Shia militias that carried out attacks all over the Middle East. Interpol dismissed Iran’s request.

Scores of people were killed during demonstrations in Ethiopia that erupted after the killing of Hachalu Hundessa, a prominent Oromo musician. His songs helped inspire a protest movement that led to the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as prime minister in 2018.

The leaders of Niger, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Mauritania met to discuss ways of strengthening security to stop a jihadist insurgency in the Sahel. They were joined by Emmanuel Macron, the president of France, and Pedro Sánchez, the prime minister of Spain. France has more than 5,000 troops in the region.

Zimbabwe froze most mobile-money transactions to defend its ailing currency. It also suspended trading on the stock exchange, where traders had been observing share prices to estimate how much the currency is really worth.

Nearly 30 people, thought to be from the New Generation Jalisco drug gang, attacked the armoured car in which Mexico City’s police chief was riding. Two bodyguards and a passerby were killed. In the town of Irapuato, 24 people were slain by gunmen at a drug-rehabilitation centre. One of the government’s central pledges is to reduce gang violence.

Mexican police arrested a new suspect for the murder of 43 students in the southern state of Guerrero in 2014. An earlier report by the government contended that police had handed over the students to a gang, which killed the students and burned their bodies. The report was widely seen as flawed.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, which replaces the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), came into force. See article.

Mississippi’s legislature voted to remove the Confederate battle flag from the state flag, which has flown outside the Capitol building since 1894. It is the last state to unstitch the emblem of the Confederacy from official regalia. See article.

Russians voted in a plebiscite on constitutional reforms. According to the electoral commission, 78% approved a package that includes inflation-proof pensions, a high minimum wage and a ban on gay marriage. It also allows Vladimir Putin to run twice more for president, and to sack judges. Voters had to say yes or no to the whole package. See article.

In France Emmanuel Macron’s party was hammered in the second round of local elections. The Greens won the mayor’s office in a number of big cities; the Socialists handily hung on to Paris. Mr Macron is now under pressure to relaunch his presidency with an extensive reshuffle. See article.

The first round in Poland’s presidential election was inconclusive, a rebuke to the incumbent Andrzej Duda, who is backed by the ruling Law and Justice party. Polls show him running neck and neck with the liberal mayor of Warsaw in the next round.

Ireland got its first-ever coalition government between its two historic main parties, Fianna Fail and Fine Gael. The new prime minister, Micheal Martin, replaced Leo Varadkar, who will return to the office in two years’ time if the coalition lasts that long. See article.

Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, invoked the spirit of Franklin Roosevelt when he announced a “new deal” to rebuild the economy. Many of the “new” projects are already in the pipeline. Mr Johnson has urged his countrymen to go to their local for a pint when pubs reopen on July 4th. See article.

Coronavirus briefs

More states in America reimposed lockdowns amid a surge in covid-19. The number of daily cases nationally passed 50,000 for the first time. In California, which had been considered an early success, restaurants and other businesses in 19 counties were ordered to shut. In Arizona, where infections have doubled in the past two weeks, the governor ordered gyms, bars and cinemas to close again for at least a month. See article.

Leicester, a city in Britain, was put back under lockdown as cases there continued to rise, to three times that of the city with the next-highest rate. See article.

The European Union reopened its borders to residents from 14 countries where the virus is under control, such as Canada and New Zealand. The list does not include Brazil, Russia or the United States. China will be added if it reciprocates.

This article appeared in the The world this week section of the print edition under the headline “Politics”

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Killing of Hachalu Hundessa Shows Ethiopia’s ‘Combustible’ Politics – The New York Times

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NAIROBI, Kenya — In life, Hachalu Hundessa’s protest songs roused and united Ethiopians yearning for freedom and justice. He is doing the same in death, with thousands flocking on Thursday to bury him in Ambo, the town 60 miles west of the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa where he was born and raised.

Mr. Hundessa, 34, was shot on Monday night by unknown assailants in Addis Ababa and later died of his wounds in a hospital. His death has ignited nationwide protests that have killed 81 people, injured dozens of others and caused extensive property damage. The authorities have blocked the internet and arrested 35 people, including a prominent media magnate and government critic, Jawar Mohammed.

The unrest, analysts say, threatens the stability of Africa’s second-most populous country and deepens the political crisis in a nation already undergoing a roller-coaster democratic transition.

“I am in bitter sadness,” said Getu Dandefa, a 29-year-old university student. When he saw Mr. Hundessa’s coffin in Ambo, he said he dropped to the ground and started crying.

“We lost our voice,” he said, “We will keep fighting until Hachalu gets justice. We will never stop protesting.”

Mr. Hundessa’s funeral serves as a moment of national reckoning in a country already facing myriad political, economic and social challenges. The fury aroused by his death poses a challenge to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who rose to power in 2018 following a wave of antigovernment protests that Mr. Hundessa — a member of the country’s largest but historically marginalized ethnic group, the Oromo — helped to galvanize through his music.

Credit…Oromia Broadcasting Network, via Reuters

Since then, Mr. Abiy, an Oromo himself, has introduced a raft of changes aimed at dismantling Ethiopia’s authoritarian structure, releasing political prisoners, liberalizing the centralized economy, committing to overhaul repressive laws and welcoming back exiled opposition and separatist groups.

In 2019, Mr. Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his initiative to resolve the decades-long conflict with neighboring Eritrea and for spearheading regional peace and cooperation in the Horn of Africa.

A nation of about 109 million people, Ethiopia has one of the fastest-growing economies in Africa, hosts the headquarters of the African Union, and is a key United States ally in the fight against terrorism.

But while the 43-year-old prime minister has made great strides, the changes have unleashed forces that have produced a sharp increase in lawlessness in many parts of the country, with rising ethnic tensions and violence that have displaced 3 million people.

Yohannes Gedamu, an Ethiopian and lecturer in political science at Georgia Gwinnett College, in Lawrenceville, Ga., said that the ruling coalition had lost its grip on the structures it once used to maintain order in an ethnically and linguistically diverse nation. As a result, he added, as the country moves toward multiparty democracy, rival ethnic and political factions have clashed over resources, power and the country’s direction forward.

The government has come under fire for failing to stop the killing of government critics and prominent figures, like the chief of staff of the Ethiopian Army, and its inability to rescue a dozen or more university students abducted months ago.

In combating the disorder, the authorities have resorted to the tactics of previous, repressive governments, not only blocking the internet, but arresting journalists and enacting laws that human rights advocates say could limit freedom of expression. Ethiopian security forces have been accused of gross human rights violations, including rape, arbitrary arrests and extrajudicial killings.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated all this, leading the government to postpone August elections that many saw as a critical test of Mr. Abiy’s reform agenda. The move drew condemnation from opposition parties, who fear the government will use the delay to attempt a power grab.

Credit…Michael Tewelde/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

“The last few days demonstrate just how combustible the situation in Ethiopia is,” said Murithi Mutiga, the project director for the Horn of Africa at the International Crisis Group.

He added: “The merest spark can easily unleash all these bottled up, ethnonationalist passions that have become the defining feature of Ethiopian politics, especially as it goes through this very delicate transition.”

While Mr. Abiy has a daunting task at hand, many say the government’s forceful response to discontent could make matters worse. Laetitia Bader, the Horn of Africa director at Human Rights Watch, said the group had received reports that security forces had used lethal force on protesters in at least seven towns.

“The initial signs aren’t good,” Ms. Bader said. “The government needs to make clear that it is listening to these grievances, creating the space for them to be heard and adequately responding to them without resorting to repression or violence.”

Given Mr. Hundessa’s stature, and how his music provided a stirring soundtrack against repression, the authorities should pull back and allow “people to grieve in peace,” said Henok Gabisa, the co-chairperson of the International Oromo Lawyers Association, based in St. Paul, Minn. About 200 of the city’s Oromo community protested on Tuesday.

“The Oromo people are in disbelief, shocked and confused,” said Mr. Gabisa, who knew Mr. Hundessa and met him a few months ago in Ethiopia. But arresting political opposition leaders like Bekele Gerba, of the Oromo Federalist Congress party, and raiding Mr. Mohammed’s Oromia Media Network only risked inflaming long-simmering tensions, he said.

“Abiy fumbled,” Mr. Gabisa said. “He dropped the ball.”

Credit…Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Despite the recent upheaval, however, analysts still give Mr. Abiy high marks for his efforts to put Ethiopia on a new course.

Mr. Gedamu said the prime minister had taken huge strides on multiple fronts, establishing the nationally unifying Prosperity Party, overseeing a record-breaking tree planting project to tackle climate change and expediting efforts to complete the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would bolster the country’s electricity supply.

“It is my understanding that revolutionary positive changes might actually take some time,” Mr. Gedamu said. “But overall, the gains of the reform outweigh the challenges.”

For now, tensions remain high across Ethiopia as Mr. Hachalu is being laid to rest. The military was deployed to parts of the capital on Wednesday, and witnesses reported hearing gunshots.

Rawera Daniel, 24, an unemployed university graduate in Addis Ababa, said the authorities should not crack down on citizens who want to mourn.

On hearing of Mr. Hundessa’s death, “I cried like I lost my mother,” he said. “He fought for our freedom. His lyrics spoke on our behalf.”

Mr. Mutiga, of the International Crisis Group, said that Mr. Abiy should rise to the occasion not just as a political leader but as Ethiopia’s healer in chief.

“I think where Abiy definitely could do better is to try to fashion consensus,” he said, “persuade his opponents and be more deliberative and consultative and try to carry people along with him.”

Tiksa Negeri contributed reporting from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

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No politics, please! HK finance professionals impose self-censorship after security law – The Guardian

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By Sumeet Chatterjee and Scott Murdoch

HONG KONG (Reuters) – A year ago, growing anti-government demonstrations in Hong Kong were a hot topic in conversations among bankers, lawyers and other investment professionals in one of the world’s biggest and freest financial hubs.

On Thursday, two days after China imposed a controversial new security law on the city, you could almost hear a pin drop. Bankers were tight lipped, shunning any mention of the legislation over the phone or messaging apps in a sign of how much disquiet it has triggered.

More than half a dozen people Reuters spoke to said they chose not to talk about the impact of the law on their businesses with their colleagues and external contacts, though there had been no such official instruction from their respective organizations.

The sweeping legislation pushed the semi-autonomous city, which is the regional home for a large number of global financial companies, on to a more authoritarian path.

The law punishes crimes of secession, subversion, terrorism and collusion with foreign forces with up to life in prison.

While it doesn’t directly impact the financial sector, its provisions including giving a special police unit extra powers of search, electronic surveillance and asset seizure that have stoked concerns among some professionals.

‘IT COULD CHANGE THE WAY WE COMMUNICATE’

Both Hong Kong and Chinese government officials have said the law is vital to plug gaping holes in national security defences exposed by months of sometimes violent protests against the local government and Beijing over the last year.

But critics fear it will crush freedoms and an independent legal system that are seen as key to Hong Kong’s success as a financial centre and a gateway between China and the world.

“I was on a call with Singapore colleagues this morning when one of them asked me about the law and its impact on Hong Kong,” said an executive at a regional insurance company, who like his peers declined to be identified citing the sensitivity of the matter.

“I had just started when my boss tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to move on to business matters. Later, all our team members in Hong Kong were told to strictly refrain from sharing opinion on this on calls and social media.”

While most financial professionals in Hong Kong have long been aware of being tracked by the world’s most sophisticated electronic surveillance system when they travel to China, they said they have had no such concerns or need for precautions in Hong Kong.

A corporate lawyer with an international law firm said that could change the way in which people in the former British colony “communicate and correspond” from now on.

“I think some people could become very careful in what they write on Whatsapp and Wechat … as a firm we are not writing anything in any correspondence like that (related to the law) but it could become an issue for some.”

Some of the professionals said that they were also reviewing their previous posts on social media related to the pro-democracy protests and the security law, and deleting ones they thought would be viewed as sensitive.

A senior Hong Kong-based wealth manager with an European bank said that he had been advised by his manager to minimize his conversations over messaging apps with his local clients about any political impact on markets and investments.

One financial analyst who was arranging a meeting in a café said it might need to be held somewhere more private if the conversation included the new security law.

“Walls have ears now,” he said.

(Reporting by Sumeet Chatterjee and Scott Murdoch in Hong Kong; additional reporting by Jennifer Hughes; Editing by Kim Coghill)

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