John Ivison: No public evidence, but plenty of carnage after Trudeau’s India accusations – National Post

So, there goes Canada’s Indo-Pacific strategy, the much-vaunted plan to counter an increasingly quarrelsome China by improving relations with democracies in the region like… India.

Not much is clear after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s stunning speech in the House of Commons that linked agents of the government of India with the June murder in B.C. of Sikh activist Hardeep Singh Nijjar.

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But it is apparent that there will be implications from this complete breach of relations for years to come.

In marked contrast with his approach to making public intelligence about Chinese interference in Canada, Trudeau chose to make his statement in the heart of Canadian democracy, the most public of all venues.

He said the complicity of a foreign government in the murder of a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil is an unacceptable violation of sovereignty, which clearly it would be if the prime minister’s allegations stand up.

But just as he urged Canadians not to rely on what he called inaccurate intelligence information leaked to the media earlier this year about China, it would be prudent not to rush to judgment now.

India has denied the allegations, calling them “absurd and motivated.” A statement from the Indian government said Canada is trying to shift the focus from “Khalistani terrorists and extremists who have been provided shelter in Canada.”

Nijjar was president of a Sikh temple in B.C., after arriving in Canada in 1997 on a false passport. His refugee claim was reportedly denied, although the government says he was granted citizenship in 2015. What is clear is that he was in favour of an independent Sikh state in Punjab — Khalistan — and that the Indian government believed he was a terrorist, involved in a bombing campaign in Punjab. A warrant was issued for his arrest in India and internationally by Interpol.

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The Times of India claimed he ran terror training camps in Mission, B.C., yet he does not appear to have been arrested or charged with anything in Canada. Is that because he is completely innocent, as his supporters claim, or because, as Indian ministers allege, the federal government’s indifference is inspired by “vote-bank politics”? Canada’s 800,000 Sikhs are a decisive voting constituency in B.C.’s Lower Mainland and the Greater Toronto Area.

There are no heroes in this story. The Indian government statement claims: “We are a domestic polity with a strong commitment to the rule of law.”

Two hundred million Muslims, increasingly the target of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu nationalist party, might disagree. Extrajudicial killings are not just the preferred approach for Latin American death squads and Saudi autocrats looking to silence dissidents. It is entirely believable that the Modi government ordered Nijjar’s murder.

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Then again, the United States and Israel have also engaged in targeted killings of figures like Osama Bin Laden and a host of Iranian nuclear physicists, claiming they were acts of national self-defence.

Such brazen tactics on Canadian soil would make a mockery of any claim to “shared values.”

India is increasingly at odds with democracy and the rule of law, reflected in its description in The Economist’s Global Democracy Index as a “flawed democracy” that has plunged from 27th spot on the index to 53rd under Modi.

Indian tax police recently raided the BBC’s offices in Delhi and Mumbai after the corporation aired a critical documentary on Modi. Critics are often targeted in such a fashion: Amnesty International closed its Indian operation after its bank account was frozen.

India’s commitment to democracy and the rule of law has been on full display as it buys up cheap Russian oil, helping to prop up Vladimir Putin’s war machine.

Yet India is also the world’s fifth-biggest economy and a bulwark for the West against China.

An indication that it has become indispensable to the U.S. came in June, with Modi’s state visit to Washington.

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President Joe Biden all but tugged his forelock as he talked about “two great nations, two great friends, two great powers.”

The Americans will not be happy at the discord among key allies, probably wondering why, just because Canada has caught a cold, it has to go around sneezing over everyone else.

Trudeau had no choice but to raise the issue with Modi in private if the evidence of Indian involvement is conclusive. Whether he needed to raise the matter in Parliament, particularly without presenting the evidence, is another matter.

Canada’s trade with India has long over-promised and under-delivered. Trade in goods in 2021 totalled just $7.6 billion, and trade in services ran to a further $6.8 billion. Now, an October trade mission to try to finally jolt the relationship to life has been cancelled.

Yet, as new Conservative MP Shuvaloy Majumder wrote recently: “India is the epicentre of the new world of geo-politics, the centre of gravity in the Indo-Pacific region.”

In its Indo-Pacific strategy, the Liberal government referred to India as a “critical partner for Canada” and hailed its “shared tradition of democracy.”

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All of the friction in the relationship, going back at least to Trudeau’s father’s time, has stemmed from what the Indian government’s statement referred to as “the inaction” of successive Canadian governments when it comes to Sikh extremism.

Canada has a proud tradition of freedom of speech and expression but that does not extend to organizing terror training camps. If that allegation is true, Canada is indeed sheltering terrorists.

If this government has been playing footsie with extremist elements in exchange for their votes, it is not worthy of the office it holds.

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