THE UK Government should ditch its pursual of a “grubby” Free Trade Agreement with India after Justin Trudeau said there was “credible evidence” the country was responsible for the assassination of a Canadian Sikh leader, an SNP MP has said. 

Martin Docherty-Hughes – who raised concerns about India’s alleged interference in Canada back in June with Foreign Secretary James Cleverly – said the UK was “desperate” not to acknowledge India is “being increasingly assertive in the affairs of other states”.

He insisted ploughing ahead with talks on a free trade deal were reckless and he would be tabling questions with the Foreign Office on the matter.

Hardeep Singh Nijjar was shot and killed in June in front of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told the House of Commons in Canada that, in recent weeks, national security authorities had been probing allegations that New Delhi was behind a state-sponsored assassination of Nijjar.

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Docherty-Hughes also expressed his concern about the case given his constituent Jagtar Singh Johal – a campaigner for Sikh human rights - has been held in an Indian jail since 2017 and is facing the death penalty.

Johal – also known as Jaggi - was shopping when he was grabbed by plain clothes officers, hooded with a sack and bundled into a police car in front of his new wife, just three weeks after their wedding in India in 2017.

Docherty-Hughes (below) told The National: "I raised this issue in June following a clear statement from one of our oldest and closest allies about general concerns regarding India: to now have this shocking example of suspected direct interference confirmed gives me no comfort, but I think if they were proven, they would be a shocking violation of Canada’s sovereignty.

"The Foreign Secretary’s non-answer to my question has matched the UK’s Government’s general attitude towards any criticism of India: they are desperate not to acknowledge that there are widespread concerns among our allies not only that India is being increasingly assertive in the affairs of other states; its continuing funding of the Russian war machine in Ukraine, and about the decline of that country’s democracy.

The National:

"My constituent Jagtar Singh Johal continues to languish in an Indian prison six years after his arrest, and the only people this side of the Himalayas who think he’s not been arbitrarily detained seems to be Rishi Sunak and the UK Government.

“That’s why ploughing ahead with talks on a free trade deal seems so reckless. With this case, we now have a clear choice between standing by one of the UK’s oldest and closest allies and pursuing this grubby trade deal.

"I’ll be tabling questions to the Foreign Office today, though won’t be holding my breath for any substantive answers.”

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Johal’s brother Gurpreet added the news from Canada is “extremely concerning” and a sign of a “pattern” of people being targeted for human rights activism in India.

He said: "What we're seeing is Canada standing up for one of its nationals, and that's in stark contrast with the UK Government's failure to seek my brother's release.

"UN legal experts have said that Jagtar was targeted for his human rights activism. On the blog he contributed to, he wrote about the persecution of Sikhs by the Indian authorities.

“We've seen a pattern of this, in India and abroad, so the news from Canada is extremely concerning."

Earlier this month, 70 MPs signed a letter urging Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to call on Narendra Modi – the Indian PM – to immediately release Johal. 

But the UK Government refused to call for his release. This was confirmed in a letter sent to Docherty-Hughes by minister for Asia Lord Ahmad.

Ahmad wrote: “Having carefully considered the potential benefits and risks to Mr Johal of calling for his release, as well as the likely effectiveness of doing so, we do not believe this course of action would be in his best interests.”

The original letter was sent by Docherty-Hughes in July but he only received a response almost two months later.

The Sunday National also revealed that a letter from Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross asking UK Cleverly for a speedy update on Jaggi’s case was “mislaid” for months.

Delhi has dismissed Trudeau’s latest claims as “absurd”.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “We are in close touch with our Canadian partners about these serious allegations.

“It would be inappropriate to comment further during the ongoing investigation by the Canadian authorities.”

They added: "The UK Government is committed to seeing Jagtar Singh Johal’s case resolved as soon as possible. We continue to provide consular assistance to Mr Johal and his family and have consistently raised his case directly with the Government of India.”