Modi’s India has made yet another textbook display of how a far-right regime charged with aggressive nationalism blatantly embarks on the roguish path. Although BJP’s governments at the center and in different Indian states have made a charade of whatever was left of Indian democracy, it is the first that Modi’s hurricane of rogue behavior has hit the shorelines of a Western country.
On September 19th, Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, speaking in the House of Commons, said that Canadian security agencies are “actively pursuing allegations of a potential link between the agents of the government of India” and the assassination of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who was shot dead on June 18 this year in Surrey, Vancouver. Trudeau added that the involvement of a foreign government in killing a Canadian citizen constituted “an unacceptable violation” of Canada’s sovereignty.
Startling as it was, the revelation pushed India and the Modi regime among the headlines in the Western media — of course, subject to deleterious reportage — and ignited a diplomatic spat between Canada and India. While India continued to reject the allegation disparagingly and resorted to diplomatic bluster against Ottawa, a series of leaks were made by Canadian authorities to the media, which revealed that Canadian authorities had signals and human intelligence linked to the killing. The intercepted communications were categorized as “smoking gun,” which linked Indian diplomats based in Canada with the assassination of Nijjar. Moreover, a media leak claimed that the intelligence wasn’t gathered by Canada alone (later confirmed by the US envoy to Canada). Rather it also included intelligence inputs from the Five-Eyes Intelligence Alliance, most notably from the USA, which helped Canada establish the context and subsequently go public with the disclosure.
Given how much the US-led West is banking on India to counter-balance against China, it is highly unlikely that Canada’s Five-Eye intelligence allies would have advised the Trudeau government to go public with the revelations without having maximum confidence in the veracity of the intelligence. Media reports also claim, citing Canadian government sources, that in private, Indian officials didn’t deny murder allegations.
For the Western world, autocratic regimes’ killings of political activists on their soil have precedents. Still, it is a first that India — a self-professed democracy but essentially a sham with which the West appears willing to live to create a pretense of shared values and principles against China — has undertaken such an egregious transgression on Western soil.
Before becoming India’s PM in 2014, Modi ruled the state of Gujrat for 13 years (2001 – 2014). In 2002, Gujrat witnessed a pogrom of Muslims under Modi’s watch, which, as the Chief Minister is reported to have directed police to pull back, which enabled what a United Kingdom Report labeled as a “systematic campaign of violence” against Muslims having “all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing” at the hands of Hindutva extremists. It was because of Modi’s involvement in the Gujrat pogrom of Muslims that the US government denied Modi a visa to the US — a ban that was only lifted after Modi became the PM of India.
After raking reins in New Delhi, Modi furthered his far-right Hindutva agenda and embarked upon a mission to convert India into a fascist autocracy. Modi strangled the media in India and tamed most of it to bandwagon with the far-right ideology of the BJP. He oversaw the systematic corrosion of Indian institutions, including the judiciary, military, and civil service, to render those subservient to BJP’s majoritarian agenda. Various strong-arm tactics were employed, weaponizing state machinery to coerce opposition politicians, making them desert their parties and join the BJP. This resulted in what is colloquially and rather euphemistically labeled as “democratic backsliding” in India.
Under Modi BJP’s rule, Hindutva hooligans were given an open license to carry out vigilantism and lynch people belonging to minorities with immunity. Given the BJP’s declaratory anti-Muslim agenda, Muslims — the biggest minority in India — became primary targets for Hindutva ruffians. Thousands of Muslims have been killed in separate incidents of lynching and pogroms by Hindutva hooligans belonging to BJP & RSS (ideological patron of the former), dozens of Mosques and houses of Muslims have been demolished (by state machinery and Hindutva groups) and Muslims are being subjected to ghettoization through discriminatory legislation and prejudiced treatment on political and socio-economic accounts.
Given Pakistan poses the only hurdle in India’s way to regional domination, the relationship between the two neighbors remain particularly antagonistic. The addition of nuclear weapons in 1998 introduced relative stability to South Asia, but added a perilous dimension to the regional calculus fraught with cataclysmic nuclear risks and thus demanding responsible behavior from involved nuclear actors.
In 2019, in an attempt to turn the electoral landscape in his favor, Modi resorted to perilous nuclear brinkmanship, pushing South Asia almost to the brink. Pakistan’s calculated response & international intervention averted what could have been a cataclysmic escalation. The crisis, however, once again underscored the limits of recklessness to which a far-right jingoistic can push just to secure an electoral victory.
The aforementioned instances constitute what the West would generally label as unacceptable behavior flouting international norms and endangering regional and global peace. Leaders resorting to such behavior are normally labelled as reckless and irresponsible, and are subjected to international sanctions or at minimum, international opprobrium. However, in case of India, West didn’t bother to take any steps to change India’s roguish attitude, primarily because the Western capitals didn’t find it auspicious to antagonize cantankerous India, which they aim to pitch as a counterweight to China. Such is the attitude of impunity adopted towards India that despite ample evidence of persecution of minorities under the Modi government, the US State Department didn’t include India in the list of “countries of particular concern” vis-a-vis religious freedom.
It may be safe to conclude that the attitude of impunity adopted by the West towards India’s rogue behavior under Modi at home and in the immediate neighborhood provided New Delhi with the audacity to carry out a state-sponsored assassination on Western soil with the anticipation that either the assassination wouldn’t be traced back to India or would be overlooked in the Western capitals.