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Nobody is going to turn India into a global pariah

Each time Justin Trudeau comes to India, he makes a fool of himself.

His notorious official visit, a few years ago, during which he mingled with separatists was sunk when photographs of him doing Punjabi, Bollywood-style dancing in ‘native’ costume, looking like a junior artiste who had escaped from a shaadi video, were published. 


This time, when he came for the G-20 Summit, he was the ghost at the banquet, hanging around on the sidelines, ostentatiously cold-shouldered by the Indian government. And then, to add to his humiliation, he ended up being stranded in Delhi because of a series of accidental mishaps. His official plane developed a mechanical snag and could not fly. A second plane, sent to fetch him from Canada was diverted to another airport. And by the time that plane was scheduled to arrive, the first plane had finally been fixed. The government of India sent Rajeev Chandrashekhar to the airport ostensibly to see him off but probably just to make sure that he was finally leaving. 
   Trudeau seems a personable enough chap, a photogenic dynast with an eye for the main chance. While his popularity in Canada and his personal life have been through some rocky times lately, he will be around for a while, given his relative youth. (He is young enough to be Narendra Modi’s son). 
   So why is he treated in India, a country that has traditionally enjoyed good relations with Canada, as a cross between a figure of fun and an enemy of our national interests? 
   The joker part is easy enough to understand. If you come on an official visit and dress up like a character in a Tik Tok comedy video, people will laugh at you. More difficult to understand is why he should let us see him as our enemy. 
   Ultimately, it boils down to just one factor: Trudeau aligns with and promotes Khalistanis in Canada. He does this, I imagine, because of domestic political compulsions and he either does not understand why this angers New Delhi so much or he simply does not care. 
   During his fancy dress official visit, the then Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh pointedly snubbed one of Trudeau’s Khalistani pals on the grounds that he did not deal with people who wanted to break up India. 
   The snub did not go unnoticed but Trudeau’s behaviour was unchanged. It did not seem to worry him that the democratically-elected Chief Minister of Punjab --- a state that the whack-jobs he hangs out with claim is “Indian-occupied” --- had no time for the Khalistani fringe who sing separatist songs in faraway British Columbia. 
   Nor was he perturbed by Indian allegations that Khalistanis in Canada were providing financial support to terrorists and separatists in Punjab. He seemed either unaware of —or unconcerned by --- the lessons of history. In the 1980s, it was extremist Sikhs in Canada who supported terrorism in Punjab and blew up Air India’s Kanishka aircraft, killing hundreds of passengers including many Canadian citizens. 
   Given this background, you can hardly blame New Delhi--- and the rest of India ---- for not warming to Trudeau. As Amarinder Singh kept warning when he was Chief Minister, Pakistan is working hard to revive the Khalistan movement and the support of Canadian Sikhs is vital to its efforts. 
   Despite all this, India and Canada had come to a weary understanding whereby both countries focused on the areas where they agreed and looked past Trudeau and his Khalistani pals. Despite Trudeau’s tendency to make a fool of himself (aided and abetted by planes that would not take off), this arrangement held --- until a few days ago. 
   That was when Trudeau told his parliament that Canadian investigators believed that Indian security agencies had been involved in the assassination of a Khalistani activist/terrorist (choose the term you like) on Canadian soil. 
   As I write this, Canadian officials are still refusing to provide any details of India’s alleged involvement or to show us any proof because the investigation is, apparently, at a sensitive stage. But while its sensitive nature prevents Canada from substantiating its charges, it did not stop Trudeau from expelling an Indian diplomat who, the Canadians say, is an R&AW agent whose name had come up in their investigation. 
"My guess is that Trudeau will keep up the pressure, he will make more accusations, will release some evidence, and will try and get Western governments to condemn India."
   India has called the charges absurd and until the Canadians provide proof, I don’t think we are obliged to take them seriously. 
   But let us --- for the purposes of argument only --- accept that Trudeau’s charges have some merit. What follows from that? 
   Well, one, it is not difficult to see why the Canadians will be upset about a foreign security agency, conducting hit jobs on its soil. The British, for instance, have been justifiably agitated about Putin injecting his enemies with nerve agents on British territory. 
   But two, if Canada thought that Trudeau’s charges would attract the sort of global condemnation that the Putin-sanctioned UK hits did, then they miscalculated. 
   Apparently, the Canadians tried to get their global allies to express outrage over the dead Khalistani. All they have managed to get is a few careful statements from a few foreign governments. Nobody is willing to condemn. India, let alone put pressure on New Delhi. 
   Three, there are reasons for this. While Putin’s men attacked dissidents and political opponents of the Kremlin, the Indian hit (assuming for a moment that this is what it was) was directed at a man the Indian government has designated as a terrorist. It is not quite the same thing as attacking an elderly dissident and his young daughter in Salisbury. 
   Four, there is no real international consensus about keeping terrorists alive. The Israelis have been tracking down and killing terrorists all over the world for decades. Nobody has done very much to stop them. In fact, Mossad hit squads are repeatedly glorified in Western popular culture. 
   The Americans have gone even further than the Israelis. During Barack Obama’s time, the President was regularly asked to sign off on a ‘kill list’ of terrorists. Once he signed, the Americans would kill these people in drone strikes and targeted assassinations. This was not a secret; it was accepted as a legitimate tool in fighting terrorism.  The practice continued under Donald Trump and there is no reason to believe that it has stopped under Joe Biden. 
   This may be difficult for Canada --- whose deadliest enemies are people who want to steal its maple syrup – to understand. But in much of the West, targeted assassinations of terrorists are not uncommon. 
   Five: Canada is supposed to be looking to the US for support. Given Washington’s own record in this area, it is hard to see what the White House can say to India (apart from the usual bland, meaningless statements) without seeming hypocritical. 
   Six: Nobody in India thinks less of our own government because of Trudeau’s allegations. The majority of Americans support the targeted killings of terrorists who operate from beyond their borders. That may be true of Indians as well. 
   We may not glory in the killings of terrorists as the US does. In 2019 when US Special Forces carried out a raid to kill Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, President Trump gloated about the success of that assassination “He died like a dog. He died like a coward. The world is now a much safer place, “ he said. India does not celebrate the killings of terrorists. But nobody sheds any tears for them either. 
   And finally: my guess is that Trudeau will keep up the pressure, he will make more accusations, will release some evidence, and will try and get Western governments to condemn India. 
   I don’t think it will happen. Even if we did it --- and there is no proof at all that we did --- we were acting to the same standards as the US and other Western countries. Nobody is going to turn India into a global pariah for that. 
   So if Trudeau is looking for quick payback for his Indian humiliations — which may expel why he went public before he could substantiate his charges—I don’t think he is going to get it. He may have more success in doing another of his costumed Bhangra routines. 
Posted On: 21 Sep 2023 11:42 AM
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