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 16,2024

In a move indicative of further saffronisation of Indian textbooks, the new NCERT Class 12 Political Science textbook has removed the name of the historic Babri Masjid, referring to it instead as a "three-domed structure." The section on the demolition of the mosque by Hindu nationalist mobs has been reduced from four to two pages, with significant details omitted.

According to the Indian Express, the revised parts include the BJP rath yatra from Somnath in Gujarat to Ayodhya, the role of kar sevaks, anti-Muslim violence following the demolition on December 6, 1992, the imposition of President’s rule in BJP-ruled states, and the BJP’s expression of “regret over the happenings at Ayodhya.”

The old textbook described the Babri Masjid as a 16th-century mosque built by Mughal emperor Babur’s General Mir Baqi. The new version, released this week, refers to it as "a three-dome structure built at the site of Shri Ram’s birthplace in 1528," and claims it had visible displays of Hindu symbols and relics.

The new textbook also praises the 2019 Supreme Court ruling on the Ayodhya dispute, despite criticisms from legal experts and Muslim leaders. The chapter describes the ruling as a 'classic example' of consensus, stating:

“The verdict allotted the disputed site to the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teertha Kshetra Trust for the construction of a Ram temple and directed the government to provide an appropriate site for the construction of a mosque for the Sunni Central Waqf Board. This resolution through the due process of law, based on archaeological and historical evidence, was celebrated by society. It exemplifies consensus building on a sensitive issue and showcases the maturity of India's democratic ethos.”

The changes in the textbook have sparked controversy, with critics viewing them as an attempt to rewrite history and promote a particular ideological narrative.

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News Network
June 16,2024

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Muslims around the world mark the Eid al-Adha (the Feast of the Sacrifice) as this year’s celebrations are overshadowed by Israel’s war on the Gaza Strip and its deadly violence in the West Bank.

Eid al-Adha was celebrated on Saturday in several Arab nations including Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, while 9 other Muslim countries such as Iran, Malaysia, Iraq, India, and Oman celebrate the holiday on Monday.

Gazans perform Eid al-Adha prayers in the rubble of their neighborhoods amidst the devastation of destroyed homes and buildings where nearly 37,300 Palestinians have been killed since the war began more than eight months ago.

“We usually come to the Eid prayers cheering, with smiles everywhere on the streets. This Eid, I’ve come to the Eid prayers mourning, I’ve lost my son,” says Umm Muhammad Al-Katri who is performing her prayers in rubble in Jabaliya refugee camp.

In al-Quds, Israeli forces once again took harsh measures against Palestinians trying to mark Eid al-Adha in Al-Aqsa Mosque, with entry restrictions and physical assaults on worshipers.

WAFA news agency reported that around 40,000 Palestinians managed to attend prayers inside the mosque, while others were left with no choice but to pray outside the mosque as they were denied entry.

It also reported that Israeli forces disrupted the movement of Palestinians in various parts of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, erecting checkpoints and halting vehicles.

“We are in great pain and we are living through the difficult moments with our brothers in Gaza and in every place where they face calamities and hardships,” said Mahmoud Mohana from Ramallah.

“But with God, they will find their reward and will be elevated. We ask God to lift this distress and quicken the salvation of this nation from this oppression and brutality,” he added.

Jordanians came to the streets in a show of solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, following Eid al-Adha prayers.

The protest, held outside Al Kalouti Mosque near the Israeli Embassy in Amman, demonstrates the unwavering support of the Jordanian people for their Palestinian counterparts.

Eid al-Adha falls on the 10th day of the month of Dhu al-Hijjah on the lunar calendar every year, which marks the end of the annual Hajj pilgrimage.

Around two million Muslims undertaking the pilgrimage this year perform the last major ritual of the Hajj, the “stoning of the devil” in western Saudi Arabia, many of them have said that during the rituals taking place, they were praying for their Palestinian brothers and sisters and for Gaza.

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News Network
June 11,2024

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Mangaluru: Former minister and KPCC vice-president B Ramanath Rai stated that the NEET-UG should be conducted again and a high-level probe guided by the Supreme Court should be initiated.

“Being a Congress leader from Dakshina Kannada, which is an educational hub with a large number of medical colleges, I have to raise concern towards students and parents.

While a few students were becoming toppers in the exam earlier, this time 67 students scored 720. The grace marks were awarded, though it was not in the NEET guidelines. The govt has been playing with the future of lakhs of students. There should be a transparent and unbiased probe. The Congress will launch a nationwide protest,” he told reporters on Monday.

Stating that the NEET-UG result, which was scheduled to be released on June 14, was released 10 days earlier on June 4, Rai said, “The govt may have announced the results of NEET-UG and the Lok Sabha polls on the same day with the calculations of diverting the people’s attention. While many have made suicide attempts, the issue also has reached the court. Congress demands a high-level probe guided by the Supreme Court.”

Stating that the CET was introduced in Karnataka during the tenure of then-chief minister M Veerappa Moily in 1984, Rai said that a large number of students from the state were able to get admission to medical seats. 

“The previous system of holding medical entrance at the state level should be reintroduced. There is a need for a united fight along with other states for the re-introduction of the CET at the state level. Meanwhile, a fresh NEET-UG exam should be conducted for this year,” he said.

Congress candidate Padmaraj R Poojary, who contested the recent Lok Sabha poll, said a mass protest will be held if the central govt does not respond. He added that none of the students’ unions, except the NSUI, has raised their voice against the NEET-UG controversy.

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