Trudeau’s murder charge risks upending US courtship of India

Agencies
September 20, 2023

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s shocking allegations that India orchestrated the murder of a separatist leader leaves President Joe Biden caught between one of the US’s closest allies and an increasingly important partner in countering China.

Narendra Modi’s government on Tuesday denied that it had anything to do with the slaying of a prominent Sikh leader in Canada, calling the allegation “absurd.” Both nations expelled one of the other’s diplomats, and that’s before Canada has made any evidence public.

The White House reacted cautiously, with National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson saying the administration was “deeply concerned” and called on India to cooperate with the Canadian investigation. A US official acknowledged the allegations pose a problem for Biden, who just left India with relations seemingly on track.

Now the episode threatens to upend the US’s effort to court India as a counterweight to China, which was on display at the Group of 20 summit in New Delhi earlier this month. The US and its allies had hailed Modi’s success in reaching a compromise on a joint communique, accepting softer language on Russia’s war in Ukraine to align itself more broadly with India in the battle with China for influence among major emerging economies.

“The Biden administration is in a no-win situation with this latest bombshell,” said Derek Grossman, a senior defense analyst at the RAND Corporation. “If it sides with Ottawa, then New Delhi will be up in arms and, once again, question the loyalty of Washington. If it sides with New Delhi, then the US is contradicting a NATO ally.”

The US frequently finds itself torn between its efforts to defend human rights around the world and the pragmatic need to partner with government accused of regular abuses to protect its geopolitical interests. That leads to periodic tensions, such as when agents from Saudi Arabia murdered Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

Trudeau told lawmakers on Monday there were “credible allegations” that agents of the Indian government were behind the murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia in June. Nijjar, 45 at the time and the temple’s president, was outspoken in both his advocacy for the creation of an independent Khalistan in the northwest and his criticism of human rights violations in India.

“The government of India needs to take this matter with the utmost seriousness,” Trudeau said on Tuesday morning. Canada is going to “remain calm, we’re going to remain grounded in our democratic principles and values, and we’re going to follow the evidence and make sure that the work is done to hold people to account,” he added.

India has denied any involvement and blasted Canada for failing to take action against Sikh separatism. India had declared Nijjar a wanted terrorist and accused him of conspiring to murder a Hindu priest, among other allegations.

Without a resolution, the dispute threatens everything from pending talks to expand the modest $11 billion India-Canada trade relationship to communications between the two countries’ militaries, something that could create a headache for Biden as he seeks greater cohesion from partner nations.

Modi’s government sees Trudeau as politically beholden to the Sikh community, and expects relations with Canada to deteriorate, according to an Indian official with knowledge of the situation. At the same time, the person said, India-US security cooperation is on a strong footing and is unlikely to affected by Canada’s allegations.

“There is this evergreen challenge that the US and some of its allies face with India, concerns about what they regard as democratic backsliding,” said Michael Kugelman, director of the South Asia Institute at the Wilson Center. “But at the same time they want to ensure they don’t risk imperiling relations with a country that they view as strategically critical. Honestly, I think Washington will just stay quiet.”

The historical issue of Sikh separatism has troubled Canada-India relations for years, and politicians in both countries have tapped into the issue to win votes. Canada has the largest Sikh population outside of Punjab after many left following riots in 1984. They have also become an important political group, including within Trudeau’s administration. Modi’s party, meanwhile, has pushed policies appealing to voters who see India as a Hindu nation.

India has been historically prickly about public criticism from the US and its allies, and the US has said that it tries to voice concerns behind close doors. Speaking in Vietnam after his G-20 visit to India this month, Biden said he had raised rights issues in his recent meeting with Modi, though it’s unclear if they discussed Nijjar’s killing.

For its part, Canada pledged in a recently published strategy for the Indo-Pacific region to grow ties with India across a range of areas, while also acknowledging its growing strategic importance. The two sides had also previously expected to agree to a trade pact by end of this year but that was put on hold ahead of the G-20 summit. Canada last week postponed a trade mission to India that had been set for October.

As the India-Canada relationship worsens, the US will face a tough balancing act, according to Vivek Mishra, senior fellow at New Delhi based Observer Research Foundation.

“I expect there will certainly be back-channel discussion between the US and India on how to proceed further,” he said. “With Canada being a NATO ally and India being a strategic partner ally, the US will have to do the tightrope walk.”

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News Network
June 11,2024

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Bengaluru: A court in Bengaluru has remanded Kannada actor Darshan Thoogudeepa, his long-time friend Pavithra Gowda and 11 others to six days of police custody in connection with the murder of a man from Chitradurga. 

Darshan, 47, an A-lister of Kannada cinema, is accused of orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of 33-year-old Renukaswamy, who allegedly posted lewd messages about Pavithra on Instagram. 

A team of Kamakshipalya police from Bengaluru apprehended Darshan at the Radisson Blu Plaza hotel in Mysuru, his hometown, around 8:30 am on Tuesday. He was subsequently brought to Bengaluru and taken to Bowring and Lady Curzon Hospital for a medical examination. 

By the evening, Darshan, Pavithra and the 11 other suspects were presented before the 24th Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate court on Nrupathunga Road. The court granted the police's request to interrogate them in custody for six days. 

Renukaswamy’s body was discovered in a drain near an apartment complex in northwestern Bengaluru's Sumanahalli on the morning of June 9. The following day, four suspects surrendered to the police, claiming they murdered Renukaswamy over a financial dispute. 

Police sources told DH that Renukaswamy was brought from Chitradurga to Bengaluru on June 8, put up in a shed in RR Nagar owned by one of the suspects, and severely beaten. He sustained fatal injuries to his groin and at least 10 other places. His body was then transported approximately 12 km to Sumanahalli, in northwestern Bengaluru, and discarded in a drain. 

As the police dug deeper, a larger conspiracy surrounding the murder was uncovered, leading to suspicion falling on Darshan, the sources explained. 

"We have taken him (Darshan) into custody for the murder of a man named Renukaswamy. The case has been registered at the Kamakshipalya police station," S Girish, Deputy Commissioner of Police (West), said.

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News Network
June 10,2024

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New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet in his historic third term will retain the known faces in the big four ministries - Amit Shah will retain the Home portfolio, Rajnath Singh Defence, Foreign ministry will be retained by S Jaishankar and the Finance ministry by Nirmala Sitharaman. 

The Prime Minister himself will handle the Ministry of Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, the Department of Atomic Energy and the Department of Space.

Many of the ministers have been retained with their last jobs in the interest of continuity as well. Among them is Nitin Gadkari, who will retain the Road Transport and Highways ministry with two juniors under him -- Ajay Tamta and Harsh Malhotra. The 67-year-old has been the longest serving minister in the department and has been credited with the building of construction of more than 54,858 km of national highways over the last 10 years.

Piyush Goyal has retained the Commerce portfolio.

JP Nadda, the health minister in PM Modi's first cabinet, has been brought back with the same portfolio. He has also been given additional charge of the Chemicals and Fertilisers department.

The plum portfolios of I&B and railways will be handled by Ashwini Vaishnaw. The Civil Aviation Ministry has changed hands from Jyotiraditya Scindia to TDP's Ram Mohan Naidu, the youngest minister in the cabinet. Mr Scindia has been put in charge of the Telecom ministry.

Two former Chief Ministers from the key BJP states of Haryana and Madhya Pradesh, who have been brought to the Centre, have been allocated significant responsibility. Manohar Lal Khattar will handle two key ministries -- Power and Housing and Urban Affairs. For the first, he would have the assistance of junior minister Shripad Naik, for the second, Tokhan Sahu, the first-time minister from Chhattisgarh.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the four-time Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, will handle the key ministry of Agriculture, and the related Farmers Welfare and Rural Development ministries.

Former Minister for Earth Sciences and Food Processing, Kiren Rijiju, has been put in charge of Parliamentary Affairs, previously handled by Pralhad Joshi. Mr Joshi has been moved to the Food, Consumer Affairs and Renewable Energy department.

CR Paatil will be in charge of Jal Shakti ministry and Bhupendra Yadav, Environment. Giriraj Singh has been shifted to Textiles -- a department handled by Smriti Irani. Annapurna Devi will be in charge of the other portfolio handled by Ms Irani -- Women & Child Development. Mansukh Mandavia has been put in charge of Labour and Employment and Sports and Youth Affairs.

Ravneet Singh Bittu -- the grandson of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh who was assassinated in 1995 -- will be the junior minster for food processing and railways. Mr Bittu has lost the election from Ludhiana and will have to get a seat in either house of parliament within the next six months.

Among allies, former Bihar Chief Minister and HAM chief Jitan Ram Manjhi will have charge of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises with Shobha Karandlaje as the Minister of State.

South ally and Janata Dal Secular chief HD Kumaraswamy has been put in charge of the Heavy Industries and Steel portfolios.

Key Bihar ally and LJP chief Chirag Paswan has been given charge of the Food Processing department.

Among the Ministers of State with Independent Charge, Dr Jitendra Singh is expected to be the busiest. A third-time Union minister from Jammu and Kashmir, he has been put in charge of multiple portfolios -- Science and Technology, Ministry of Earth Sciences, Personnel, Public Grievances and Pensions, Department of Atomic Energy, Department of Space and the Prime Minister's Office.

Arjun Ram Meghwal will have Independent charge of for Law and Justice and will also be the junior minister for Parliamentary Affairs.

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News Network
June 5,2024

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BJP heavyweights Smriti Irani, Arjun Munda and Ajay Mishra Teni, among others, were unseated in the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. These losses, particularly in the Hindi heartland, have forced the BJP to lean on its NDA partners to form the government. 

This marks a deviation from the sweeping mandates of 2014 and 2019, when the BJP garnered 282 and 303 seats respectively, achieving a majority on its own.

The Election Commission of India has declared the results for 542 out of the 543 Lok Sabha constituencies so far. The BJP has secured 240 seats, while the Indian National Congress trails with 99.

The Ones Who Lost

Smriti Irani: One of the most high-profile defeats was that of Smriti Irani in Amethi. Ms Irani, who had famously defeated Rahul Gandhi in 2019, lost to Congress candidate Kishori Lal Sharma by a margin of 1,67,196 votes. This defeat marked the end of an era in Amethi, which had briefly been a BJP bastion under Ms Irani's stewardship.

Ajay Mishra Teni: The Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, embroiled in the controversial Lakhimpur Kheri incident, was defeated by the Samajwadi Party's Utkarsh Verma by over 34,329 votes.

Arjun Munda: The Union Tribal Affairs Minister faced a crushing defeat in Jharkhand's Khunti constituency, losing to Congress candidate Kalicharan Munda by 1,49,675 votes. 

Kailash Choudhary: In Rajasthan's Barmer, Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmers' Welfare, Kailash Choudhary, finished third, trailing by 4.48 lakh votes behind the victorious Ummeda Ram Beniwal of the Congress.

Rajeev Chandrasekhar: In Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram, the Union Minister of State for Electronics and Information Technology, Rajeev Chandrasekhar, lost to Congress stalwart Shashi Tharoor by over 16,077 votes. 

The BJP's setbacks weren't limited to these prominent figures. Ministers such as Mahendra Nath Pandey, Kaushal Kishore, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, Sanjeev Balyan, Rao Saheb Danve, RK Singh, V Muraleedharan, L Murugan, Subhas Sarkar and Nishith Pramanik also faced defeats in the polls.

Mahendra Nath Pandey, the Union Minister of Heavy Industries lost his Chandauli seat in Uttar Pradesh. Minister of State for Housing and Urban Affairs, Kaushal Kishore lost against Samajwadi Party's RK Chaudhary by 70,292 votes in Mohanlalganj.

Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, the Union Minister of State for Consumer Affairs, Food, and Public Distribution, lost in UP's Fatehpur. Rao Saheb Danve, the Minister of State for Railways, lost the Jalna seat in Maharashtra to Congress' Kalyan Vaijnath Rao Kale. Cabinet Minister Rk Singh lost to CPI(ML)'s Sudama Prasad from Bihar's Arrah.

Union Minister Sanjeev Balyan was defeated in the Muzaffarnagar Lok Sabha seat by Samajwadi Party's Harendra Singh Malik by a margin of over 24,000 votes.

V Muraleedharan, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Parliamentary Affairs, was defeated in Kerala's Thiruvananthapuram. L Murugan, the Minister of State for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry, and Dairying, lost to DMK's A Raja in Tamil Nadu's Nilgiris by a substantial margin of 2,40,585 votes.

Nishith Pramanik, the Union Minister of State for Home Affairs, lost the Cooch Behar seat in West Bengal to TMC's Jagadish Chandra Basunia by over 39,000 votes.

Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar was defeated by Trinamool Congress candidate Arup Chakraborty in the Bankura Lok Sabha seat of West Bengal by a margin of 32,778 votes.

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