India’s ‘snub’ is Trudeau’s gain

By 23rd February 2018 0 Comments

It is almost certain that if you search for “Narendra Modi” on the internet, you will come across scores of images showcasing his awkward hugs and handshakes with world leaders. You might remember how he left Prince William’s hand with visible marks after a “strong” handshake, or how he shoved Mark Zuckerberg aside when he inadvertently stepped between the camera and PM Modi.

Considering the aura and fan following Canadian PM Justin Trudeau carries across the world, one would have expected Modi to cash in on the opportunity and get some close-up portrait shots with Trudeau, now that he is in India – but that didn’t happen.

In fact, the PM did not even turn up to receive Trudeau when he landed in India along with his wife and three children on February 17. Not just that, Modi didn’t even feel it necessary to send any of his senior colleagues but instead delegated a junior state minister to welcome the Canadian PM.

Did the PMO deliberately plan to snub and disrespect Trudeau, the PM of a G8 country? Did India overstep and will pay for the behaviour, or has PM Modi chosen the right time to showcase the power the Indian state can wield?

The Modi government’s cold shoulder has left many observers bewildered, but considering the latest events and happenings, it is not surprising.

The central government’s honeymoon period seems to have finally ended, as the Indian electorate has started to express fatigue and restlessness over the state of things in the nation. Multiple bypoll losses in arguably the strongest BJP bastions, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan, have left the party thinktank extremely worried.

The mess created by reforms such as demonetisation, GST and Aadhaar, and numerous scams – namely the Rafale deal, PNB fraud and more – have re-enforced the lack of “Achhe Din” in the voters’ psyche.

The only ploy that still seems to be working for the party is “nationalism” – the way the BJP was able to sell distress and discomfort caused by these reforms to the voter-base by projecting it as a sacrifice for the “greater good of the nation”.

Another popular craft often followed by the BJP to stoke nationalism is by highlighting Jihadi and Khalistani terrorism.

This domestic policy of the Modi government has a natural connection with Justin Trudeau and his government. Canada experienced a huge influx of Sikhs in the 1980s and 90s, comprising mainly the innocents fleeing Punjab to avoid being framed and killed by the police gangs of KPS Gill and the likes.

There were also some who escaped the law agencies in India after committing crimes of “revenge”. The hatred towards the Indian administration used to be conspicuous in the talk and demeanour of these new immigrants, but with the passage of time, most of them “moved on” with their new Canadian lives.

Those who could not, established organisations to keep the issues of Operation Bluestar and the 1984 Sikh Riots alive and have since then been vociferous supporters of Khalistan, a sovereign Sikh state potentially carved out of India.

The Indian state consciously or otherwise has been aiding the cause of these organisations by delaying justice to the Sikh victims, 33 years and counting.

To solidify its nationalistic stance, the Modi government has brought up the issue of Khalistan time and again with the Canadian authorities. The Indian PM wants Trudeau to rein in any voice that is raised against India’s sovereignty and has termed the lack of curbs as Trudeau’s tacit support for anti-India voices in his nation.

Interestingly enough, it does not end here. In general, the rise of Sikh politicians on foreign lands has made RSS-affiliated bodies uncomfortable for decades now, because these politicians do not fit the caricature and image that the RSS would like somebody of an Indian descent to project.

This was observed in full public glare when RSS-backed bodies in Canada openly campaigned against Jagmeet Singh, the Canadian politician who eventually won the leadership race and now heads NDP, the third largest national party in Canada.

Canada on the other hand is known world-wide as a state that backs “freedom of expression” in principle and practice. While maintaining a strong commitment to support and wish for a united India, Canada keeps reinforcing the fact that peaceful and non-violent protests will never be curbed by the authorities.

The refusal to heed to Indian demands as well as the rise of Sikhs in the Canadian parliament has been instrumental in Modi not “cozying up” to Trudeau on his India visit.

Sikhs form a formidable part of the Canadian population and more so in three provinces – British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta. They tend to vote in blocks and because they are concentrated in certain areas, they hold the power to sway around 20 Parliament constituencies.

Trudeau cannot be asked to appreciate this fact more – he already has four Sikh MPs in his cabinet and he clearly recognises the importance of keeping the Sikh electorate close.

What has changed in the last few months is the rise of Jagmeet Singh, who will be fighting Trudeau in the 2019 elections and is a charismatic young Sikh leader with the potential to dent Trudeau’s Sikh base. Of the three major political parties of Canada, Trudeau’s Liberals and Singh’s NDP often fight over the anti-conservative vote-base.

Trudeau could not have timed his India visit better. Him being sidelined and snubbed by Modi for being close to Sikhs has strengthened his Sikh vote-base back home and social media is already full of bravado posts calling him “Sardar Justin Singh Trudeau”, “Sher-e-Punjab” and more. Even better, Trudeau has been successful in doing so without publicly rebuking the Indian side.

He can be seen enjoying his India trip, putting up more than a happy face and has signed bilateral deals worth $1 billion, creating 5,800 new jobs back home.

The Canadian and world media has been following Trudeau’s visit closely enough to notice the irregularities. Major news channels in Canada, such as CBC, Global and others, have reported and questioned the cold-shouldering by Modi while the conservative-leaning media houses have termed Indo-Canadian relations to have hit “rock-bottom”. Many international channels like CNN and Al-Jazeera have also judged the Modi government’s behaviour as a “snub”.

In the end, either due to well-planned propaganda by the BJP or ignorant speculation by the Indian media, Justin Trudeau is all over India’s news space, be it print or digital. Though the Left and Right of Indian intelligentsia are conveniently thrashing him and hailing the stance of the Indian authorities, the Canadian PM will surely fly out of India with a wider smile than he arrived with.

By Jaspreet Oberai

Follow on Twitter : @iJasOberoi

This article was originally published on Read the original article.

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