By Abhinav Kumar
Justin Trudeau can perhaps be forgiven for believing that he is destiny’s child — scion of a reputed political family from one of the richest countries in the world, a man blessed with good looks, charisma, and a telegenic personality. In his eight years as the leader of Canada, he has emerged as a poster boy for woke liberals, a man determined to reaffirm the moral authority of Western liberal democracies.
It was perhaps with this sense of purpose that he stood in Canada’s Parliament a few days ago to accuse the Government of India and its agencies of being complicit in the murder of a man we in India have long regarded as a prominent advocate of Khalistani terrorism and separatism.
His accusations immediately struck a chord in the global fraternity of self-appointed keepers of morality and democratic values. They have a flourishing chapter in our civil society as well. It also fits in rather neatly with the larger narrative that has been peddled ad nauseum since May 2014 about India’s current government in Western chanceries, universities and media houses.
According to this narrative, since the BJP came to power in May 2014, India has begun a disturbing slide towards fascism and authoritarianism. In their view, India’s current regime espouses a muscular Hindu nationalism that seeks to marginalize its minorities. Hardeep Singh Nijjar’s killing is being presented as another example of its fascist agenda in India and abroad.
Today’s youth would have limited knowledge or interest in the trauma that India experienced at the height of the Khalistan movement in the 1980s and the early ’90s. Liberally backed by the military dictatorship of General Zia ul Haq from across the border, the violence was not just limited to Punjab — it engulfed neighboring states, the national capital, and even saw the brutal assassination of a former Army chief and the tragic bombing in 1985 of an Air India flight that actually originated in Canada.
It led to a bloody Army operation in the holiest shrine of the Sikhs, which was responded to with the assassination of a sitting Prime Minister and the massacre of the Sikhs in the nation’s capital. It was only the firm response of the Indian state, led by legendary police officers such as J F Ribeiro, K P S Gill, O P Sharma and A K Doval (the current NSA), that finally doused the flames of Khalistani separatism. This history continues to shape our understanding and response to the ongoing efforts in India and abroad to revive the Khalistan movement.
Trudeau may ignore it, but the fact remains that just as the Taliban regime of the 1990s in Afghanistan sheltered Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, Canada has emerged as a prominent safe haven for the ideologues and foot soldiers of Khalistan. Trudeau professes moral outrage and claims that friendly democracies do not carry out assassinations on each other’s soil, but then friendly democracies do not harbor each other’s terrorist fugitives either. His is not the principled stand of a global statesman, but a rather worn out and familiar form of neo-colonialism whereby Western countries arrogate to themselves the right to be the arbiters of international morality.
Trudeau claims that there are “credible allegations” of a “potential involvement” of Indian agencies in the killing of Nijjar. The Government of India has firmly refuted these allegations. One can only hope that the fundamental principle of innocence until proven guilty is also applicable when the alleged accused and the accuser are two sovereign governments. However, judging from the response of Western governments and their media, the Government of India and its agencies are guilty even before any credible evidence has been publicly or privately presented. This merely shows that despite shifts in economic power, the global narrative about international issues remains heavily skewed in favor of Western governments.
Let us, for a moment, assume that Trudeau has some evidence to back his allegations. If that is indeed the case, what has the Government of India done that is inconsistent with prevailing norms of international behavior by nation states?
In their more than two-decade-long war on terror, America and its allies, including Canada, have carried out assassinations, kidnappings and acts of torture in all countries, friendly or hostile, with impunity.
Such operations have not only been sanctioned and condoned, they have also been celebrated. Drone strikes remain an essential part of the toolkit of America and its allies in the war on terror. The hypocrisy and self-serving world view of Trudeau and his supporters needs to be called out for what it is.
The moral high ground that Trudeau is attempting to claim with these allegations is clearly a figment of his imagination. India has long been one of the biggest victims of terrorism. Unlike some of our neighbors, the Indian state has no extra-territorial ambitions nor any desire to export terrorism to any other country.
We are a nation born in the terrible aftermath of a bloody Partition and, therefore, separatist movements are a source of justified concern and anxiety for us. Trudeau and his supporters need to look within before they attempt to look down upon India and run down its democracy and its commitment to a just international order.
(Courtesy: Indian Express)
Abhinav Kumar is a serving IPS officer.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are not necessarily those of The South Asian Times