How the West viewed Trudeau’s allegations
How should we respond to such commentary about our country?
Whilst I’d like to believe our government’s response to the Trudeau allegations, there are certain facts which, as a journalist, I think we should bear in mind. I don’t think they’ve been adequately reported. Sometimes they’ve even been deliberately ignored. So I feel it’s my duty to draw your attention to these facts but leave you to come to your own conclusion. I don’t want to influence you with my personal opinion.
First, the Financial Times reports President Biden raised the allegations with Prime Minister Modi when he met him in Delhi for the G20 and “expressed concern”. Jake Sullivan, the national security advisor, could have confirmed this when he said “this issue had been discussed at the highest levels”. What does this tell us of how Biden views these allegations?
Second, the American ambassador in Canada has confirmed that one or more Five Eyes countries shared intelligence with Ottawa. The New York Times reports that the United States is one of them. The paper adds Canada has “what appears to be the ‘smoking gun’, intercepted communications of Indian diplomats in Canada indicating involvement in the plot”. What do these intercepts say? Do they really amount to a smoking gun?
Third, initially, Jake Sullivan and then a day later Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, stated: “We have been consulting throughout very closely with our Canadian colleagues, and not just consulting, coordinating with them on this issue.” What does that amount to? Does it suggest Washington is aware of not just the character but also the quality of the intelligence Canada has?
Fourth, in fairly emphatic terms, Blinken has said: “It would be important that India work with the Canadians on this investigation. We want to see accountability and it’s important that the investigation runs its course and leads to that result.” Though said at a press conference, is that a message to New Delhi?
Fifth, Sullivan seems to have gone a step further when he said: “There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this. Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles.” How should we read that?
Sixth, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation has revealed that Jody Thomas, their national security advisor, accompanied by the head of Canada’s intelligence services, spent four days in Delhi in August and another five or six in September, briefing India’s intelligence agencies. However, India’s spokesperson has claimed that “no specific information has been shared by Canada with us on the allegations, either then, before or after.” So if she had nothing specific to state, why did Thomas spend possibly up to 10 days in India?
Seventh, our spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, has called Canada “a safe haven (for) terrorists, extremists and organised crime”. Those are terms usually reserved for Pakistan. How does Washington view their use for Canada, a NATO ally, a member of G7 and, most importantly, a neighbour with very close cultural contacts?
Eighth, several English language newspapers, on both sides of the Atlantic, have raised questions about the sort of country India has become. For instance, The Observer says: “The Modi government’s behaviour at home and abroad raises doubts about its commitment to democracy and India’s reliability as a partner.” Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times-acclaimed columnist, has even compared Modi to Pakistan’s General Zia ul Haq. Whilst The Economist bluntly says “it is time for a tougher line.” How should we respond to such commentary about our country?
Finally, in an official statement, the ministry of external affairs “completely rejected” the Trudeau allegations, calling them “absurd and motivated”. Given what we know about Biden’s behaviour as well as Sullivan’s and Blinken’s statements, has America accepted this response?
Now, I’ve only focussed on America because its response is by far the most important. I’m also aware that whilst India only faces allegations, America is definitely guilty of what Blinken calls “transnational repression”. But America has repeatedly got away with it. Is India in a position to expect the same?
Karan Thapar is the author of Devil’s Advocate: The Untold Story. The views expressed are personal