For a long time, India has projected itself as the world’s largest democracy. Western countries, driven by their economic and geopolitical interests have often overlooked India’s persecution of minorities, curbs on media and even support for terrorist activities on foreign countries. The world’s attitude of ignoring such excesses gave confidence to India to such an extent that it did not hesitate to commit an assassination on Canadian soil. The assassination of a Sikh separatist activist and Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, has shaken the West out of its slumber.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government has been targeting numerous dissenting voices, especially those advocating for freedom and currently residing abroad. Despite the diplomatic row between Canada and India regarding the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, another Sikh activist Sukhdool Singh was killed in Winnipeg, Canada. He was wanted by India in seven cases and had moved to Canada in 2017.
When direct action was not feasible, there were instances where India tarnished the Sikh community through contrived incidents. Desecration of Hindu temples in Australia for which Sikhs were blamed is one such example. According to the Australian police, after investigating the graffiti that defaced the outer wall of a temple in Brisbane, they were prepared to close the case due to the absence of leads from the complainants. The police indicated that the anti-Modi graffiti, which was executed on the night of March 3, seemed to have a ‘Hindu hand’ behind it, even though it was initially attributed to pro-Khalistan elements. Police investigators theorised that Hindus defaced their own temple after shutting off the key CCTV cameras purposely and the serial offender who had done similar mischief in Victoria had then sneaked into Brisbane’s Sikh rally of March 4 this year.
For years, Pakistan has voiced concerns about India’s alleged involvement in illicit and terrorist activities on its territory. Arrest of a serving Indian Navy officer in Pakistan with involvement in acts of terrorism in Sindh and Balochistan has been the clearest proof. The West, owing to its economic and geopolitical interests, however, never took such things seriously. As a consequence, a more assertive India has now resorted to similar acts in its friendly Western countries.
The dispute between Canada and India holds significance for the emerging Indo-Pacific framework and numerous other Western alliances. With geo-economic and geopolitical interests at stake, all member countries in these alliances are faced with a difficult situation. However, all these functioning democracies have one thing in common; very diverse populations. These countries owe their progress and success to the constitutional liberal order which they follow. India, however, strengthened by such acts in its neighborhood, has unwittingly violated this order by killing a Canadian citizen. Western democracies, despite their economic and geopolitical interests, have no choice but to protect their value system to ensure continued integrity and harmony in their societies.
The Indian government, instead of cooperating with Canadian authorities in the investigation, has focused on blaming Canada for sheltering terrorists. At the same time, the Indian media has leashed an offensive against Canada. The media fails to understand the fundamental difference between overtly acknowledging a covert operation and outright denial, which is India’s apparent approach. They are, thus, comparing it with US actions against Osama bin Laden and Qasim Sulemani in other countries. They are also now trying to find refuge in the deaths of two Pakistanis, Karima Baloch and Sajid Hussain in Canada and Sweden, respectively.
Canada has not blamed India for this act on its own, rather, it was provided with intelligence information by some of its intelligence partners. Canada is also being supported by the US and other Western countries in an effort to protect their value system.
While this conflict is not likely to create a permanent wedge between India and the West, it has however, debunked Indian claims of sharing the western value system. The West will also be more vigilant about Indian intent and claims in future. At this point in time, the only honourable way for India is to accept the crime its agencies have committed and support the Canadian government in the investigation and trial of the responsible individuals.