Observations of an Expat: The Great Indian Escape

India is likely to escape the consequences of allegedly murdering a Sikh Canadian on Canadian soil.

And this in turn will have consequences for democracy and political structures in India, the sub-continent’s relations with the rest of the world, Canadian relations with its allies and the international rule of law.

Let’s start with the fact that the claim that Indian intelligence agents were responsible for the murder of Sikh nationalist Hardeep Singh Nijjar is – so far – an allegation. And that the government of Narendra Modi has dismissed it as “absurd.”

But, at the same time, it is inconceivable that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau would have stood on the floor of the Canadian parliament and announced that he had “credible evidence” that India was behind the murder given the dire repercussions of such a claim.

India is fast becoming one of the most important countries in the world. It has overtaken China as the most populous. Its economy is growing at 7.8 percent and is set to overtake Japan as the world’s third largest.

It has become a go-to destination for Western companies seeking to “de-risk” their investments in China. And as a member of the Quad Alliance it is a key counter-balance to Chinese influence in the world.

All this means that the US and its allies – including Canada – have been actively courting the Delhi government of Modi and this courtship has turning a blind – or at least blinkered – eye to its excesses.

India is more of a loose confederation than centralised federal system. It has 12 official languages and an estimated 2,000 tribal groupings. Its 76 years of independence have been marked by a constant struggle to maintain a unitary state develop a common national identity.

Modi is determined to forge that identity based on the dominance of Hinduism, which is practised by 80 percent of the population. To that end he is prepared to suppress press freedom, the courts and even use violence to achieve his objective. The establishment of a unified Hindu nation—not democracy—is now the defining goal of the Indian government.

The Sikh Diaspora’s struggle for an independent Sikh nation known as Khalistan is seen by the Indian government as a threat to its objective.

India’s well-established foreign policy is an additional problem. It is studiously not pro-Western. It is, however, anti-Chinese because of a long-standing border dispute. But it also has historic good relations with Moscow which it is struggling to maintain while improving relations with the West.

But most important of all India sees itself as non-aligned and the leader and spokesperson for the developing world. And in common with the developing world—and China and Russia—India resents the post-war legal and political structures which it says were written by America and Europe for the benefit of America and Europe.

One of those laws is that countries cannot murder the citizens of other countries on the other country’s territory. Russia suffered the consequences of breaking that law when in 2018 it attempted Russian to poison former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia. A remnant of lethal novichok when onto kill Brit Dawn Sturgess.

The result was the expulsion of Russian diplomats and sanctions by Britain and all of its allies. British Prime Minister Theresa May had no more evidence of Russian involvement than Trudeau when he accused the Modi government.

The murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar has sparked off a round of tit for tat diplomatic expulsions between India and Canada; the shelving of a major Indo-Canadian trade deal and ominous travel advisories from both countries. But the reaction from Canada’s allies has ranged from muted to a deafening silence.

Britain has simply said it is in close touch with its Canadian allies. Australia is “deeply concerned”. Washington is also “deeply concerned” and has urged Delhi to cooperate with Canadian investigations. But so far none of Canada’s allies in NATO or the Five Eyes Group have talked about sanctions or diplomatic expulsions.

It seems likely that economic and security considerations trumps the rule of law.

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Adrian Bagehot 23rd Sep '23 - 12:13am

    “It seems likely that economic and security considerations trumps the rule of law.”

    Economic and security considerations always trump the rule of law, ethics, and morals as far as governments are concerned.

    MBS ordering the murder of Jamal Khashoggi had zero effect on the sales of arms by the USofA or the UKofGB&NI to Saudi Arabia, and President D J Trump even boasted about protecting MBS from investigation by the US Congress according to Bob Woodward’s book “Rage¨.

    Prime Minister Sunak is too keen to conclude a trade deal with his good friend Prime Minister Modi so he is not going to upset the apple cart over a state sanctioned murder.

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is going to be left out in the cold by all of his 5 Eyes allies on this one.

    “One of those laws is that countries cannot murder the citizens of other countries on the other country’s territory.”

    Operators of US drone missile strikes (highest number under the leadership of President Obama) would beg to differ.

  • Peter Hirst 9th Oct '23 - 5:26pm

    Overseas state sanctioned killings are not a feature of civilised countries. This is where our global institutions should be playing a larger role. If democracy means anything then a majority of countries should be allowed to show their disdain for such activities by voting to sanction those countries where such acts can be proven.

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