By Sushil Kutty
The international gunning for Narendra Modi is back in fashion. Western media has found in Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the man to repaint Modi into a corner after 10 years of being in the global spotlight. Many in the West media are convinced this time Modi will not escape retribution notwithstanding India’s global clout and geopolitical importance, which are contributing factors that catapulted Modi to international stardom.
Will Canada become Modi’s Waterloo? And is Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau the instrument? There are an estimated 770000 Sikhs in Canada. On June 18 a Sikh was shot dead in a Vancouver car park. For the Western media and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Hardeep Singh Nijjar was a Canadian Sikh “leader”. For the Modi government, Nijjar was a “terrorist”.
On September 18, Justin Trudeau told Canadian lawmakers he had “credible intelligence” linking the Modi government to the Nijjar killing. With that Prime Minister Narendra Modi regained his earlier notoriety in the West. When Modi was Gujarat Chief Minister, he was seen as too divisive for the sensibilities of the progressive West. Several western countries refused to part with a visa for the then Gujarat Chief Minister.
Modi spent those years working on the Gujarat Model. His comeback, since 2014, was remarkable. Accolades fell in his lap. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was feted and felicitated in all corners. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Melonia is a fan. POTUS Joe Biden sought and got Modi’s autograph. Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese calls Modi his ‘Boss’. A clutch of Muslim countries has given him awards.
All in all, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the toast of the global north as well as the global south. The New Delhi G20 Summit capped Modi’s ‘Vishwaguru’ image. Then, Nijjar fell from the rafters and Trudeau accused the Modi government for the Nijjar killing. Trudeau hates being taken for granted. Trudeau is out for revenge. Even otherwise, his progressive ideals stand in the way.
Now, he is adamant that Modi’s agents killed a Canadian on Canada’s soil. He wants Canada’s allies to come out in solidarity with Canada. Trudeau’s “fury” is like reaping the whirlwind. He won’t settle for anything short of punishing India. The accusation smacks of personal dislike. And it is one democracy against another. Trudeau claims he told Modi about Canada’s suspicions regarding Nijjar’s killing and had requested cooperation.
On September 18, Trudeau told the Canadian Parliament that “involvement of a foreign government in the killing of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil” was unacceptable. The same day, Canada expelled an Indian diplomat. India retaliated next day with a tit for tat. On September 20, India put a temporary halt on Visas for Canadian citizens. There might be changes to the OIC and PIO status of Sikhs who are Canadian citizens.
Things are escalating and it looks like Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s honeymoon with the West is losing steam. India’s right-wing media says Trudeau has stepped out of line. One news website thanked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for helping Prime Minister Narendra Modi get a head-start in campaigning for the 2024 general elections. However, which of the two countries will lose more is speculation.
Modi’s global clout is at risk. Definitely Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lose traction with top global leaders. For the West, India is important because of China and Russia. But there will come a time when the West will come around to listening to Canada’s pleas for standing with historical allies. The India-Canada divide will persist unless there is regime change in India and/or Canada.
And god-forbid if Trudeau cooks up “credible evidence” to prove his claim of an “Indian agent’s” hand in the Nijjar killing. Already, comparisons are being made with the Jamal Khashoggi murder, which happened inside a consulate and not in the car park of a mosque. The Trudeau government is “closely coordinating with allies” on the Nijjar killing and India’s alleged involvement in the killing.
The Canadian Prime Minister is reportedly repeatedly in touch with President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Both the UK and the US have their own takes on the issue but wearing down resolves is another side to diplomacy and Canada is persistent. The condemnation of India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the US and UK is being actively and stubbornly sought after by Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
The US has said it was “deeply concerned about the allegations referenced by Prime Minister Trudeau”. And Prime Minister Sunak has taken a “cautious line”, choosing to “take diplomatic action against India” only if investigations indict the Modi government. The long and short of it is, for the progressive West, separatism is not terrorism as long as it does not target a western country.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on thin ice. There is no guarantee the West will not gang up. The rivalry of two prime ministers will continue to roil India-Canada ties. Also, Canada happens to be a “Five Eyes country”, which is a treaty between the spy agencies of Canada, America, Australia, Britain and New Zealand. Last heard, “Five Eyes” was fully focused on nailing Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s name to the killing of a terrorist. It cannot get any murkier than that. (IPA Service)