Modi’s India Darker Side Emerges: What Happens Next – OpEd


For a long time, leaders and media from the West have given Prime Minister Modi’s India a pass or an easy time preferring to focus attention on the threat and deficiencies of China while lauding India as a bastion of democracy and model for the developing world. 

Thus the glaring reality and inconvenient facts of Modi’s governance since accession to power – a more deeply flawed democracy, an inability to tackle endemic violence, bigotry, poverty and socio-economic discontent, and heightening repression against non-Hindu minorities – have been ignored in the hope of recruiting India as a superpower ally so that the rise of China is contained and contested in the Asian region.

Now that the big story in international relations – next to the ongoing war in Ukraine – is the fallout from the sensational revelation by Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau that Indian operatives were involved in the political assassination of Canadian citizen and Khalistan activist Hardeep Singh Niijar, the question being asked is what will happen next.

For now, Canadian and Indian governments have stuck to their initial positions. Following India’s rebuttal of his announcement that Canadian security and intelligence agencies are “pursuing credible allegations [that] … agents of the Government of India” were behind the assassination of an Indian-born Canadian citizen in British Columbia last June. – a charge India immediately labelled as “absurd” and “motivated” – Trudeau has repeated the charge and emphasised that in pursuing the case, Canada “is the country standing up for the “rules based international order that we believe in”.

On the Indian side, besides the official response of denial and non complicity amplified by a pugnacious mainstream and social media focusing on personalised bashing of Trudeau, there has been an accompanying disparaging description by Foreign Minister spokesman, Arindam Bagchi, of Canada and its “growing reputation as a place, as a safe haven for terrorists, for extremists, and for organised crime”; and a counter demand that the Canadian government cracks down on anti-India groups operating from Canada.   

The US, the most important player in this row between its two political allies on the world stage – Canada, a minor power seen by some as a US lackey and doormat; and India, an aspiring superpower – has emphasised the need for the two countries to work together on the case. In response to a question about the issue, US Secretary of State, Blinken, said: “We want to see accountability, and it’s important that the investigation runs its course and leads to that result.”

Five Eyes Finger Pointing

On the investigation itself, according to US Ambassador to Canada David Cohen, it was “shared intelligence among Five Eyes partners” which informed Trudeau of the possible involvement of Indian agents in the murder. The Five Eyes network of the US., Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand has been described as “one of the most comprehensive known espionage alliances in human history”. 

With the network’s main targets clearly Russia and China and with India recently identified by US Congress Subcommittee on Intelligence and Special Operations as a potential partner to work with in “confronting great power competition [from China and Russia]” it is most likely that Trudeau does have the evidence – although he has refused to reveal it – on Indian official involvement in this particular political assassination case. Noteworthy too is that the Five Eyes countries of the UK and Australia have said they are monitoring the situation and communicating with Indian officials.

The Five Eyes alliance is sort of an artifact of the post World War II era where the Anglophone countries are the major powers banded together to sort of co-operate and share the costs of intelligence gathering infrastructure. … The result of this was over decades and decades some sort of a supra-national intelligence organisation that doesn’t answer to the laws of its own countries.—Edward Snowden

So what accountability, results and outcomes can the world expect?

Accountability and Outcomes

Firstly, the two nations have predictably engaged in a diplomatic tit for tat follow up. The expelling of diplomats and issuance of travel advisories are par for the course to play to national galleries but are unlikely to be broadened in scope. 

More important is the impact on economic relations with a trade treaty agreement put on hold. Also significant is the impact on Indian students since India is the largest source country for international students in Canada. Both impacts, however, are seen as lasting for a short duration. 

Is the Sound and Fury Show Over 

For Trudeau and Modi now that the immediate sound and fury show is over, there is likely to be a ceasefire and return to normal relations for the two countries. But the impact on their respective domestic politics could be significant.

Modi’s domestic standing has emerged stronger from the episode, and this will stand him and his BJP party in good stead in state elections and Indian general election due next year. Trudeau, on the other hand, has not benefited from this entanglement with polls showing a plunge in his popularity, and an IPSOS survey amidst the Indian standoff revealing that only 31 percent of Canadians now prefer him as their leader, while 40 per cent are in favour of the Conservative leader Pierre Poilievre ( The fact that he has not substantiated the charge of India’s complicity – although repeatedly challenged by the Indian side – indicates that he is unwilling to further antagonise Modi or his allies by pursuing the case.  

The wild card for Modi’s India is the impact on the Sikh diaspora in Canada and Sikh communities in India. The discord and tensions have had ripple effects in disparate areas including remittances from Canada to Punjab; community sense of belonging and loyalties; and most importantly on the Sikh struggle for a separate ethno-religious homeland of Khalistan. That struggle killed tens of thousands in the 1980s and ’90s, and was eventually crushed. Today the independence drive has been provided with a renewed and unpredictable impetus. 

The Five Eyes members will definitely be monitoring developments arising from this controversy. It will also be actively involved in behind the scenes work to ensure that India, whatever its failure in abiding by the US or Canadian version of a rules based international order, becomes the centrepiece of its Indo Pacific strategy to maintain western dominance.

Lim Teck Ghee

Lim Teck Ghee PhD is a Malaysian economic historian, policy analyst and public intellectual whose career has straddled academia, civil society organisations and international development agencies. He has a regular column, Another Take, in The Sun, a Malaysian daily; and is author of Challenging the Status Quo in Malaysia.

2 thoughts on “Modi’s India Darker Side Emerges: What Happens Next – OpEd

  • September 29, 2023 at 3:27 pm

    The West Supports International Law When It Serves their National Interests and lectures the rest of the world, where as the rule of law is fundamental to international peace and stability and should be based on accountability, transparency and fairness. India should stand up to any material support given to terrorist organisations in any part of the world that threaten India’s sovereignty. The West can eliminate enemies of the state the world over but questions INDIA . In future I wish India sends a clear signal to its adversaries about its zero-tolerance if its national security is threatened. Kautilya’s Arthashastra teaches that internal security is of paramount importance to exist .
    What the world is now seeing is India’s true brighter side and the days of quite darker side are over.To act is better than not to act.

    • September 30, 2023 at 5:47 am

      RC Patial has appropriately responded. India 🇮🇳 cannot be sidelined and used by the western powers.
      The world order is changing with India emerging and Canada could be on the downside.


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