As the recent diplomatic tensions between India and Canada have unfolded, they have once again brought to light the West's glaring double standards in its dealings with India. It is not surprising that the United States, the torch-bearer of "Global War on Terror," has championed a "rules-based order" while engaging in extra-judicial killings and installing “democratic regimes” across conflict zones, often at the cost of human lives. What is more telling, however, is the US's willingness to target one of its most significant and strategic partners with paradoxical claims, all in the name of standing by its allies, such as Canada.
Recent statements by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken make this contradiction abundantly clear. While analysts debate Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's motivations for accusing India, it is imperative to scrutinize the role of the United States in this unfolding drama.
In recent times, the US has faced pressure from activists, human rights groups, and Indian opposition to question India's record on human rights and democratic backsliding. While these demands do not align with the realities on the ground in India, they nevertheless provide Washington and its Western allies with a leverage point against India, particularly as New Delhi maintains a balanced and non-aligned approach in its foreign policy.
Accusing India of involvement in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Canada offered the US an opportunity to exert pressure, all while preserving its amicable image with India. However, this approach has backfired and exposes the double standards at play in US foreign policy.
Recent reports indicate that the US provided intelligence to Canada concerning Nijjar's killing, which was meant to target India. Furthermore, there are suggestions that Ottawa had been lobbying with its Five Eyes partners to jointly condemn India at the G20 Summit, weeks before it was scheduled to take place. While the Canadian government denies being rebuffed by its Five Eyes partners, it remains clear that the alliance had been wanting to target India on this issue for some time. Reports have also shed light on the surveillance conducted by the Five Eyes on Indian diplomats in Canada regarding this matter.
These instances unmistakably point to the fact that the US pursued a "behind-the-scenes" approach to target India on the Khalistani issue, using Canada as a proxy.
Moreover, the US failed to acknowledge that it has been harboring Khalistani terrorists on its own soil, and Indian embassies and consulates in the US have also been targeted by these extremists over the past year. This is likely why it refrained from jointly targeting India with its Five Eyes partners at the G20 Summit.
What the US did not anticipate was India's National Investigation Agency (NIA) releasing a list of most-wanted criminals, including individuals hiding in both Canada and the US. Nijjar was also placed on the no-fly list by the US when India shared information on him back in 2019, according to reports.
In doing so, the US inadvertently revealed its true motivations for targeting India via Canada.
The United States must reflect on its policy of moral policing and recognize that bilateral relations can only thrive if they are based on equality. Demanding tutelage from a country, especially one as significant as India in the Indo-Pacific, is counterproductive. Conducting surveillance on Indian diplomats, while not surprising, is a sheer betrayal of trust. At a time when larger challenges like China's aggression in the Indo-Pacific demand our attention, focusing on contradictory moral lectures will only strain Indo-US ties, sow suspicion in New Delhi's power circles regarding Washington's intentions, and revive memories of the US's double standards in dealing with Pakistan's terror activities against India.
Simultaneously, India must recognize that, as it prepares to become a great power, its foreign policy stands at an inflection point. It must be prepared to face a “trial by fire”. While walking the path of non-alignment and aspiring to be a great power, India will continue to face pressure from both the West and China. Our refuge lies in economic and technological advancement, leveraging our demographic dividend and vast market potential.