Pavan Kumar Rai, the Indian diplomat expelled by the Canadian government is a 1997-batch Punjab cadre IPS officer who was at the forefront of the fight against drugs in the state before he opted for central deputation in 2010.
Rai, the station chief of the Research and Analysis Wing (R&AW) in Canada, was expelled amid the country’s probe into what it called “credible allegations” of a “potential link” between the Indian government and the killing of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.
Nijjar, 46, the head of the Guru Nanak Sikh Gurdwara Sahib in Surrey, Canada was shot dead in June this year. He was the chief of the separatist organisation Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF).
A police officer close to Rai said, “During his stint in Punjab, he was known to be a bright officer, a thorough professional, and a nice man. He was SSP of Taran Tarn in 2009-10 when the issue of drugs was staring in the face of Punjab. Rai would not buckle under any political pressure exerted in the area and was getting reprimands from politicians. He chose to opt for central deputation then”.
Rai, 53, was the senior superintendent of police (SSP) of Jalandhar and Amritsar during the late 2000s. He was promoted as an additional director general of police (ADGP) by the Punjab Government on January 31, along with seven other IPS officers.
My statement on allegations surrounding the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar. pic.twitter.com/auIyj194A8
— Mélanie Joly (@melaniejoly) September 19, 2023
Considered close to former R&AW chief Samant Kumar Goel, another Punjab cadre Indian Police Service officer, Rai got a deputation with the agency. In 2018, he was empanelled for holding the post of joint secretary or equivalent at the Centre.
The notification of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) had said that year, “The Appointments Committee of the Cabinet has approved the proposal of Ministry of External Affairs for appointment of Shri Pavan Kumar Rai, IPS (PB:1997) as Joint Secretary (Personnel), Ministry of External Affairs for a period of three years from the date of assumption of charge of the post.”
While the Punjab Government is yet to react to his expulsion, concerns and anger have mounted among his colleagues.
A police officer said, “We all know how the Canadian government has made this disclosure publicly. There are political reasons. They want to send a message to the Punjabi diaspora in Canada. It is vote-bank politics. They should play politics by all means but should not put a diplomat in harm’s way. If at all, they wanted to expel him, they should have at least kept his name secret. There was no need to name him publicly.”
Another police officer said they were concerned about his security. “Although India has reacted strongly, we hope that his security and his family’s security will be paramount for the government. We appeal to the Canadian government that he be provided security till he reaches India. He was a diplomat and he should not have been picked out. It is a huge risk for him now. The radical Sikhs will be after his life,” said the officer.