Canada Has Been Left Alone in its Fight Against India News 18 28 Sept 2023 Maj Gen Harsha Kakar

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Canada Has Been Left Alone in its Fight Against India News 18 28 Sept 2023

          India displaying its disdain for Canadian accusations was visible when the Canadian High Commissioner, Cameron Mckay, walked back to his car after being summoned by the MEA. His expressions said it all. He was in and out of the MEA in under 5 mins, without a formal escort, carrying a terse message of expelling of a Canadian diplomat. Further evidence of India ignoring Canada is that neither the foreign minister nor the PM bothered to comment on Canadian PM Justin Trudeau’s accusations, leaving it to the spokesperson of the MEA. India has firmly projected that it has no intention of participating in a sham Canadian investigation.

          The west has limited options. It can neither insist nor sanction nor compel India to cooperate. It can only request. Even if India was responsible for the incident, they can never accuse it publicly as their methods of obtaining intelligence were illegal. There were no witnesses nor video inputs and none has thus far been arrested, implying that all evidence is conjecture and circumstantial, which will never stand scrutiny in a court of law.  

Canada is in a fix. If its shares unethical snooping intelligence inputs, it can be taken to task for violating the Vienna convention. This can open doors for India as also other nations to adopt similar measures even against allies. If such unethical information is placed in public domain, can the US and its allies ever question China and Russia for similar unethical actions?   

          India stopping issuance of visas and confiscating property of Khalistanis’, mostly based in Canada, are adding to pressures on the Trudeau government. After all, many Indo-Canadians have families in India, whom they visit during the currently commencing festival season. All may not be Khalistani’s. With relations at an ebb, Trudeau’s government cannot request India to reconsider its decision. India’s next step would be to block OCI cards of suspected Khalistani’s. This will lock Khalistani’s in Canada itself segregating them from India.

The NIA is being tasked to block inflow and outflow of funds between Canada and Punjab from suspected Khalistani’s, reducing the influence of Canada based gangs in Punjab. India had wanted to do so for some time but was avoiding impacting diplomatic ties. Ottawa, by its accusations, provided this opportunity.

Canada, which failed to act on Indian dossiers as also Interpol’s Red Corner notices is now left twiddling its thumbs when India is acting on its own intelligence. When India shared intelligence on Khalistani actions, Canada claimed ‘intelligence is not evidence.’ Currently, all Canada has is ‘intelligence’ against India, aware India would not accept it on similar objections.

US cannot insist on India cooperating with the Canadian investigation. It knows that India can respond to future US actions of eliminating terrorists in multiple parts of the globe, over which India has maintained silence. India had earlier retaliated to US comments on its human rights by showing them the mirror, when Jaishankar stated in Washington, ‘we take up human rights issues when they arise in this country, especially when they pertain to our community.’

Other G7 nations, as also Canada’s five eye partners, Australia and New Zealand, are unwilling to be drawn into the controversy. Nations like Sri Lanka, whom Ottawa had earlier accused of genocide, now had an opportunity to hit back. Its foreign minister, Ali Sabry, stated, ‘Some terrorists have found safe haven in Canada. The Canadian PM has a way of just coming out with outrageous allegations without any supporting proof.’

Bangladesh also has a grudge against Canada, which refuses to repatriate, Noor Chowdhury, the killer of its first PM Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. Noor Chaudhury has been permitted to stay in Canada despite not being granted refugee status. The recent incident where a Nazi war criminal was applauded in the Canadian House of commons adds credence to Jaishankar’s comment that Canada is ‘home to terrorists, gangsters and war criminals.’   

India’s response to Canada was summed up by Jaishankar when he stated on the UNGA platform, ‘Nor must we countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism, and violence. Similarly, respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry-picking.’ Canada was not named but the target was evident.

Whether India was involved or not is unknown nor will be proved. But the incident and India’s subsequent actions, including confiscating property has sent a clear message. Latest protests in Canada had just a handful of Sikhs present, as compared to hundreds earlier. Most present had their faces covered, fearing recognition. Many are aware that in case they protest, they could be prohibited from ever entering India. Khalistan leaders have moved into hiding and many are hiring personal protection services.

All western nations, including the US, UK and Australia, where sizeable Khalistani supporters reside will have to ensure that their activities do not cross a threshold. None can ever permit a repeat of San Francisco or London, where Indian diplomatic property was damaged. Canada has increased protection around Indian embassies and consulates fearing that any incident resulting in damage would push relations downhill faster than could be imagined. Any hope of India even considering cooperation would end.

Most countries around the globe, except Pakistan, are least concerned about Canadian claims. If the US was involved in a similar incident, international condemnation would have followed. The world believes in India and its philosophy. Nations are aware that Canada is a US lackey, with no standing on the global stage, and Washington, being a neighbour, will jump to its support. The world waits and watches what proof is provided by Canada. If it is unethical, then Russia and China would be amongst the first to exploit it. It would be difficult for the west to subsequently defend its actions.

The killing of a known terrorist, on whom the Trudeau government failed to act, despite proof, has opened a can of worms and will have far reaching global impact, in case unethical means were employed to obtain intelligence. Those involved in providing snooping intelligence to Canada are hesitant to own up fearing criticism and impacting ties with India. Canada, on its part, has only ‘intelligence’ (not evidence), no witnesses nor actionable proof. With such data it can never legally implicit India nor compel Delhi to cooperate. Ideally Canada should have maintained silence, investigated and then possibly discussed their findings with India. Now that Trudeau jumped the gun, Canada is in a bind.

Canadian politicians, including Jagmeet Singh of the NDP (New Democratic Party) are now shifting accusations of India interfering in Canadian politics by raising the anti-Khalistan and anti-Trudeau bogey in its own and global media. There is a demand that India should be included in the open inquiry currently underway of interference in Canadian elections. For India, this is of no concern. How Canadians view Indian response is their problem.

In the ultimate analysis Canada needs to take the first step to tone down its rhetoric. Canada must also re-visit its policies on freedom of speech and protests, restricting anti-India voices. Once this is visible, Indian could cooperate and restore ties. If both nations stick to their guns, relations will only move downhill.

Indian diaspora in Canada will lose touch with their homeland resulting in Trudeau losing political advantage. Canada would be impacted by the Indian government going slow on permitting its students further studies in Canada.

Apart from some support from the US, Canada has been left alone in its fight against India. This projects the limited utility of Canada in the current geopolitical arena. India has the ability to shoulder any impact from Canada but Ottawa has limited options. India is aware and hence refuses to simmer down. The faster Trudeau understands, the better for Canada.