John Robson: How the India Incident Was Handled Is a Diplomatic Disaster

John Robson: How the India Incident Was Handled Is a Diplomatic Disaster
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau walks past Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as they take part in a wreath-laying ceremony at Raj Ghat, Mahatma Gandhi's cremation site, during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, on Sept. 10, 2023. (The Canadian Press via AP/Sean Kilpatrick)
John Robson

The recent sudden death of Canadian-Indian relations on the floor of our House of Commons has all the hallmarks of a Justin Trudeau operation. Starting with the classic Canadian Jedi mind trick where we’re told we don’t need to see that information.

Also his capacity to seize the limelight regardless of the situation or consequences. But while the prime minister stunned Parliament with his assertion that “Canadian security agencies have been actively pursuing credible allegations of a potential link between agents of the Government of India and the killing of a Canadian citizen, Hardeep Singh Nijjar” calling something “credible” is no more conclusive than “creamy and delicious.”

Apparently the PM briefed Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre privately. But Poilievre later said, “The prime minister hasn’t provided any facts. He provided a statement, and I will just emphasize that he didn’t tell me any more in private than he told Canadians in public. So we want to see more information.” Yes indeed.

Here in the offend-everyone spirit, let me say it could well exist. India is a democracy, albeit flawed. But even more rooted democratic regimes, or rogue agencies within them, sometimes undertake things like, say, blowing up a Greenpeace vessel, and the Indian government might well assassinate “Khalistani” separatists they consider terrorists. As some certainly are.

The incident is also vintage Trudeau in that for years Canadian security agencies have not been actively pursuing credible allegations of Chinese communist interference in our elections, or the prime minister has been brushing them aside when they do. Yet he shows no embarrassment in leaping on this issue in high dudgeon.

Instead, he exudes his usual emotionally convincing outrage. It’s not that he’s a convincing fake; it’s that he genuinely seems to regard all opposition or criticism as perverse and somehow disloyal, and it’s been one of his key political assets because many voters empathize with his sense of victimhood. But it’s surely wearing thin, especially given his repeated reckless lashing out at enemies, from fringe minorities to Alberta politicians to, now, New Delhi.

For one government to accuse another of murder on its territory is a serious breach of diplomatic etiquette. A man more willing to heed unwelcome advice would not have given that speech the way he did, especially since we need India as a counterweight to China, even if we feel no more sympathy for a wobbly democracy than a basic dictatorship.

As too often in public affairs, all parties seem determined to discredit themselves. India’s Ministry of External Affairs said, “Allegations of Government of India’s involvement in any act of violence in Canada are absurd and motivated.” Well, yes. Human actions normally are. The question is: motivated by what? And why do you sound like Radio Moscow?

Then there’s the fact, reported by Global, that the assassinated activist entered Canada on a false passport in 1997, had a refugee claim rejected followed by a marriage of convenience, then instead of being deported was according to our government granted citizenship in 20o7 anyway. It sure looks like evading our own laws to harbour shady characters for partisan gain, through reflexive hostility to the West and its friends, or both.
As for the murdered man, when asked about terrorism charges in 2016 he told the Vancouver Sun: “This is garbage–all the allegations. I am living here 20 years, right? Look at my record. There is nothing. I am a hard worker. I own my own business in the plumbing.” Saying in effect you’re too busy to be a terrorist is pretty feeble. (As was his English after 20 years in Canada.) And are we meant to think terrorists are notorious slackers, or can’t fix taps?
He certainly had time to be president of a local gurdwara who spoke and agitated repeatedly for a Sikh homeland. Including organizing an informal referendum along with Sikhs For Justice whose propaganda featured pictures of Talwinder Singh Parmar, a Khalistani zealot also twice fingered as the mastermind behind the 1985 atrocity that, while often given the foreign-sounding “Air India bombing” label, is actually Canada’s worst-ever terrorist incident.
Here, one more classic Trudeau aspect of the affair deserves attention. It is hard to think of anything that has not been left a shambles by his blame-everyone-else involvement, from government finances to the public mood to our supposed new Indo-Pacific strategy, which I warned a year ago would prove verbose frivolity.

Of course we can’t let foreign governments of any sort assassinate people in Canada. So for once can our prime minister step out of character and give us a straight account with evidence?

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to reflect that Hardeep Singh Nijjar was granted Canadian citizenship in 2007. The government had initially provided an incorrect date, according to the National Post.
Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
John Robson is a documentary filmmaker, National Post columnist, contributing editor to the Dorchester Review, and executive director of the Climate Discussion Nexus. His most recent documentary is “The Environment: A True Story.”
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