IANS | October 1
The steady rise of India on the global platform expectantly helped by an extraordinarily successful G20 under India’s Presidency, the efficacy of India’s strategy of countering the mischief of Sino-Pak axis against this country and the acknowledgement worldwide of the credibility of India’s policy of building a deep friendship with the US without letting this come in the way of India’s strategic bonds with Russia - particularly in the backdrop of the ‘war in Ukraine’ - have all created a sense of desperation among those who had been building the narrative of ‘authoritarianism’, ‘majoritarianism’ and inadequate ‘safety of minorities’ over a long period against the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Lobbies abroad working in concert with forces opposed to the Modi regime at home had elevated this narrative to the level of a political ‘proxy war’ contending that the Constitution itself was being endangered by the latter.
The ruling party no doubt had used its majority in Parliament to pass certain bills of its choice but the very fact that we have a close watch of the Supreme Court over acts of legislation - as proved by the active engagement of the apex court in scrutinising Constitutional validity of some of the decisions of the Modi government - is reason enough to have faith in Indian democracy’s strong credentials sustained by the efficacy of electoral strength of the masses here.
It is not therefore difficult to see that anti-Modi forces and the lobbies hostile to India have stepped up their activities as the next general election is drawing close.
Meanwhile, a sudden dip in India-Canada relations following the extraordinary statement made by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Canadian Parliament on September 18 to the effect that there were ‘credible allegations’ of involvement of ‘potential agents of Indian government’ in the killing of Khalistan protagonist - Hardeep Singh Nijjar leader of Khalistan Commando Force (KCF) - outside the Gurdwara in Surrey, British Columbia in June, cannot be completely dis-linked from the reality that an anti-India environ had been created - particularly in the Western world - by these lobbies.
There are three aspects of Trudeau’s statement - rightly dismissed by India as ‘absurd’ - that have to be taken note of.
One is the deliberateness with which the Canadian Prime Minister made an ambiguous-looking charge against the largest democracy in the world that was run on a proven electoral system, without even giving any indication of the identity of Nijjar’s killers or throwing some light on the ‘evidence’ he had against India.
The second is the fact that India has vigorously pursued with Canada for months before the G20 summit, the matter of inaction against the known ‘terrorists’ who were instigating violence and secessionist calls against India in the name of Khalistan, from inside Canada and who were having links with Pak ISI.
And the last is the unavoidable conclusion - to be drawn from the plea of ‘freedom of speech’ invoked by Trudeau to cover up for a definite failure on his part to heed the serious complaints made by India - that the Canadian Prime Minister was unabashedly indulging in ‘vote bank’ politics to face an impending election.
Apart from Nijjar’s direct role in instigating anti-India violence, the attention of Canada was drawn also to several other separatist terror groups operating out of that country whose leaders were wanted for heinous crimes committed in India. They included World Sikh Organisation (WSO), Khalistan Tiger Force (KTF), Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) and Babbar Khalsa International (BKI).
Multiple dossiers were handed over to the Canadian side but India’s deportation requests were ignored in an expression of brazen support for these elements.
Canada should also have been taking note of the gang rivalries among Khalistani elements that resulted in some targeted killings inside that country.
More important than what Nijjar did to ‘break’ a friendly democratic state like India, is the question as to what was Prime Minister Trudeau doing to prevent Nijjar from committing those acts from Canadian soil.
Expression of ideological or political dissent is legitimate but a call for violence to carve a ‘fundamentalist’ state out of the territory of a democratic country, is totally unacceptable.
Trudeau clearly underestimated the seriousness of this matter from India’s point of view and adopted a myopic approach for his personal political interest - betraying an element of immaturity about handling international relations.
It is now in the public domain that Prime Minister Modi sternly conveyed India’s concerns to Trudeau over the unchecked violent anti-India activities of Khalistanis in Canada, during a ‘pull aside’ interaction - no bilateral meeting was held with the latter - and therefore the blatantness with which Canadian Prime Minister levelled a serious but vague allegation against India could be attributed to a sense of ire he might be carrying on his return from Delhi.
It would not be wrong also to presume that somewhere Trudeau was influenced by the anti-India lobbies abroad making a hue and cry over the alleged suppression of dissent by the Modi regime and was led to believe that the plea for ‘freedom of speech’ in Canada could be invoked by him to meet the charge of ‘inaction’ levelled by India against him in the context of activities of Khalistan protagonists in Canada.
The lack of response from the Joe Biden administration to the statement given by Gurpatwant Singh Pannu, a US-based Khalistani leader heading Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), in the wake of Nijjar’s killing, asking for the ouster of Hindus from Canada, seems to prove the same point.
The ascendancy of Indian nationalism must be respected by Western powers so long as the Indian leadership honoured the principle of ‘one man one vote’ that laid the substratum of democracy in this country and worked for ‘development for all’.
Nationalism strengthens a democratic state against divisive forces and works for the sovereignty and integrity of India provided there was no injection of religion into politics and any approach of appeasement or special ‘political’ treatment of any community was avoided.
India has responded to Trudeau’s statement with indignation, terse reciprocity and counter-charge of his failure to act on the details furnished to Canada on Nijjar’s violent anti-India activities.
There is talk in some diplomatic circles of Canada and the US that Trudeau had shared some information on Nijjar’s killing prejudicial to India, with the Intelligence-5 group comprising the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and New Zealand.
In a neutral-sounding stand, US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken has advocated that Canada should take the matter to its logical conclusion and that India should cooperate with the enquiry.
India maintains that Canada had not shared any information with it on Nijjar’s case.
In all of this what comes out in bold relief is that Canada and its allies were totally disregardful of the serious national security concerns voiced by India over the violent activities of Khalistan protagonists operating from their soil which were designed to damage the sovereignty of a friendly democracy. This is clearly unacceptable for a rising world power like India which worked through G20 for the global mission of making the world secure and prosperous.
The least that the US could do is to be even-handed in disapproving of Khalistan separatism while calling for a transparent probe by Canada in Nijjar’s killing.
Geopolitically, India has stood by the US in leading the democratic world against dictatorial regimes like China and it would be advisable for American policymakers to realise the value of bilateral interests - both security-related and economic - that strategic friendship with India would serve within Quad and outside.
Pentagon’s traditional bonhomie with Pak Generals should not lead to the US ignoring the dangerous game Pakistan was playing in cohort with China to weaken India by instigating separatism and terrorism in Kashmir and Punjab with the help of its hired agents outside India and within.
India’s Foreign Minister S. Jaishankar has done well to caution the Western powers not to practise any ‘double standards’ towards India on serious matters of national security.
Attempts to revive Khalistan terror in India are totally deplorable and call for all steps to handle them diplomatically, legally and through counter- Intelligence operations on our own territory.
Intelligence agencies of India have the tradition of confining themselves to collecting ‘information’ which would become the basis of ‘action’ by the concerned authorities within legal parameters including recourse to repatriation or deportation in suitable cases.
India has drawn lessons from the spell of terror that Punjab was made to face in the latter Eighties and can clearly see through the ‘modus operandi’ of its adversaries out to revive the trouble in this border state.
The violent activities of Khalistanis abroad with their communal overtones are aimed at injecting militancy in Punjab and direct attacks on Hindu temples and diplomatic establishments in Canada, the US, the UK and Australia are meant to sow the seeds of communal divide in the sensitive state.
A close vigil in Punjab hopefully would help to nip the trouble in the bud and prevent any targeted attacks, use of IEDs and further indoctrination for recruitment of militants.
The Centre has to think of putting Punjab in the care of a senior civilian of national security background with knowledge of the history of Khalistan terror in the state and the ability to educate the state government on how not to let politics come in the way of security measures and on how to promote and maintain communal harmony as a bulwark against separatism.
Punjab has the pride of place in safeguarding national security as well as the economy and can be kept protected against the activities of a few mischief makers operating from foreign soil.
What makes things favourable for India is that today this country represents the sane voice of the world on matters of both global security and universal economic advancement.
It is the success of G20 under India’s Presidency that has given this advantage to India in a definitive way by creating a consensus against terrorism, narcotics trade and human trafficking and facilitating an unparalleled global outreach for India.
All aspects of human existence were touched upon- from vaccination and protection of developing nations from induced debt traps to climate change under the call of ‘Vasudhava Kutumbakam’(one earth one family) and what is even more remarkable, the world was exposed to the versatility of Indian civilisation, art &craft and scientific skills.
India did emerge as the undisputed leader of the Global South not only by bringing in the African Union as the new member of G20 but also by holding an extremely successful South Summit as an integral part of the G20 agenda.
G20’s success will help to counter anti-India lobbies as India steps up its campaign against those behind separatism in Punjab and Kashmir, exposes the doings of the Sino-Pak axis against India and calls out the elements promoting anti-India narratives as part of ‘politics by proxy’ against the Modi government.
Pak ISI is presently focusing on instigating trouble in Punjab because of the containment of cross-border terrorism in Kashmir in the period following the abrogation of Art 370 in 2019 - this is a replay of its K2 plan of the past in which it had opened a new front in Kashmir in the Nineties by raising the war cry of Jehad in replacement of slogans of Plebiscite and Azadi when terrorism in Punjab was firmly controlled and defanged.
An integral view of India’s security scenario that put together geopolitical developments that were already signalling a new Cold War on the horizon, the efficacy of multilateralism in giving shape to India’s strategy and the acknowledged rise of India as a global voice on issues of war and peace, should give our policy-makers the right and the strength to show India’s detractors their place and counter their hostile plans against this country.
(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views are personal)