Updated: Sep 24
On a fine day, when India's Parliament had just started to conduct its special session in September 2023, the Canadian Prime Minister in his own country's parliament, talks about the involvement of “agents of the Indian government” in the killing of a 'person', who was anyways designated as a terrorist, both by Interpol and the Government of India. Nevertheless, a lot of things happened. Random statements were made by ministers of the Canadian government, juxtaposing the "allegations" with the recent situation of the Canadian PM where he had to overstay in India, since his government's aircraft had malfunctioned, as if the Government of India was responsible for it. Then, certain mixed yet boilerplate statements were issues from the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan and other officials in the Biden Administration about the whole Canada-India spat, such as:
It is a matter of concern for us. It is something we take seriously. It’s something we will keep working on, and we will do that regardless of the country. There is not some special exemption you get for actions like this. Regardless of the country, we will stand up and defend our basic principles. And we will also consult closely with allies like Canada as they pursue their law enforcement and diplomatic process.
Now, this statement, according to noted expert in international security studies, Max Abrahms, is nothing but a boilerplate statement. He even argues rightfully that a muted response is something the Canadian PM wouldn't have anticipated. In many ways, this is a pro-India and commonsensical position by the United States. Japan, the G7 President for 2023, the UK and even Australia - has not raised any public objection at Canada's request on the allegation against the Government of India. Japan, for example, refuses to host any public objections against India. This clearly shows that the G7 countries - especially the countries in the Anglosphere, and Japan, have maintained a commonsensical approach to their India relationship.
As the controversy festers without purpose, the members of the Indo-Pacific Quad (India, the US, Australia and Japan) held a successful Foreign Ministers Meeting on the sidelines of the 2023 UN General Assembly. More importantly, certain members tried to discuss it at the Quad meeting in New York, which Japan and India disagreed to do so. While this attempt to discuss the Canada situation failed, it explains how decentralised political establishments in the US and Australia have become, that their respective power factions could try to sabotage the purpose & value, of one of the most significant minilateral 'ententes', ever made. Nevertheless, the US, India, UAE and Israel-led grouping I2U2 also launched their website and conducted their meetings at their own level, successfully on technology and economic partnerships in a mutually relevant sense. Here are some excerpts from the recent Quad Foreign Ministers Meeting statement to notice:
We underscore the importance of achieving the SDGs in their entirety without selectively prioritizing a narrow set of such goals and reaffirm that the UN has a central role in supporting countries in their implementation.
The statements, including this excerpt clearly show the rise and rise of commonsensical thinking among key G7 powers and India on global issues of importance. Here is a quick snapshot of the purpose of I2U2 group from the group website, hosted by the US State Department.
The Group aims to mobilize private sector capital and expertise to achieve a variety of goals, including modernizing infrastructure, advancing low carbon development pathways, and improving public health. I2U2 partnership projects and initiatives are not limited in geographic scope – the Group will explore opportunities anywhere it can make a positive impact.
India-Anglosphere Relations 2.0?
An interesting possibility, which could be discerned here, is the rise of a new curve of the India-Anglosphere relations, which this Canada episode has truly highlighted upon. Let's look at this correction in an article published by the Washington Post:
Taking this statement as an example, one can anticipate that Canada's urge to misuse and exploit the alliance system, of G7 and Five Eyes, has backfired, no matter what could have been the reasons. Nevertheless, this explains how the alliance system of Western countries led by the United States is facing its own fissures and contradictions, as the key powers, such as the US, a major power, the UK, Australia and others build their own India relationships, in a meaningful sense. The India-Canada relationship, despite New Delhi's cooperation, has always been skewed and confused. Why would India after all trust a country like Canada, whose officials deny visas to Indian security and intelligence officials, and kind of force them to reveal details of their postings in sensitive Indian territories, like Jammu & Kashmir, Ladakh and others? The United States would also avoid keeping such a practice in abeyance. Clearly, Canada's actions have damaged India-Canada relations for more than a decade to come, and it will take years to rebuild this relationship. In addition, Canada, which is already compromised by its China relationship, will not be in a reasonable position to be a stable ally of key Pax Americana countries, if the current political leadership even continues. Even if Canada retains its ally status among countries like the US, for natural and obvious reasons, it would still remain the weakest link to an already vulnerable Anglosphere, apart from another country, i.e., New Zealand for its own reasons.
We must also understand that on the intelligence partnership of the Five Eyes group, the United States could have shared some intel to the Canadians. I am not sure if it is true, but there might be a possibility. If that is that case, then what explains the no fly ban on the terrorist imposed by the US Government? The no fly list was already leaked in January 2023. Also, the US is not obliged to back blatantly partisan political blunders led by the Canadian government. The actions of Trudeau have put the US in a very difficult position. Grudgingly, the Americans are not going to be in a very charitable mood to their long-term ally anyways. If they side with Canada, they will be singlehandedly responsible for the breakdown of the US-India relationship, especially the achievement both countries have had in these 25-30 years, since the years of Rajiv Gandhi and PV Narsimha Rao. If they maintain their pro-India position, the political leadership might try to sabotage the Five Eyes intelligence grouping and NATO, overall, for being compromised to Chinese interests.
The Democratic peace theory is challenged, which is good
The best choice for the United States is to maintain their pro-India position. Then, to solidify their position, they have to carve out a path to hedge any risks posed by their Canada relationship. The same would have to be done by countries like the UK, Australia and Japan, at some level. Frankly, even Australia, for example understands, that while their China relationship is important, they aren't as compromised as New Zealand seems to be. This shows a clear pattern towards achieving a risk-averse decoupling of Anglosphere-China relations. It will take decades to make that happen in its entirety, or perhaps nothing would happen.
The US and China could still maintain their peer-to-peer relationship, with a de-risking and hostility-specific perspective. Despite Putin, the US could never decouple with Russia entirely on some matters, including space cooperation, nuclear weapons and others. With China, we therefore shouldn't expect any absolute decoupling.
Another way this could go, is the Americans adopting a de-risking strategy against Canada & New Zealand, to curb the damage it could have on their Atlantic and Indo-Pacific agendas. For any reason, India is not the country, which gave in to Western countries despite being poor. I see no reason why gaining relevance and strength as a middle & swing state, India would give in to unreasonable demands by any major power, including China and the US. Multiple Indian Prime Ministers have died for defending their nation's sovereignty, which is respected by nearly ever major power, except China.
Interestingly, in agreement with Max Abrahms, the Democratic Peace theory is challenged, thanks to the Canada episode. This is one of the major geopolitical mistakes by Canada, and its political leadership, and would only help in charting newer geopolitical principles and notions, for effective and reasonable bilateral & multilateral co-operation. Canada's actions are a disregard of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, since they've been spying in New Delhi & their personnel in Chanakyapuri, New Delhi has not been in parity. Then, be it gang wars, or anything, but defending terrorists through a government platform, by no means justifies the political credibility of Canada. Now, Shishir Gupta, a noted scholar on international terrorism and security issues, points out an important aspect on Canada's regard and sheltering of terrorists:
It is not for any other reason that Indian intelligence chief told the CIA Director that the only reason they don’t take action against SFJ’s G.S Pannu, who holds dual citizenship of US and Canada, for openly calling for assassinations of Indian diplomats and burning of Indian flag could be because he is actually a CIA agent and batting on behalf of Langley.
While I find the tone of the article by Mr Gupta quite rash, he has made an important point for consideration. We already know that the Cold War era has damaged the credibility of the United States, and its security & intelligence apparatus. It is an open secret that many policy paralyses on security & intelligence-related decisions made by the US against countries like India, have affected the role of the US in an increasingly multipolar Asia. Mr Gupta's books actually depict so many of such stories and antecedents. Anyways, when we look at the Biden Administration and its security, civil and general apparatus, it reflects an even more divided and decentralised US Government. Since Ronald Reagan, several conflicting foreign policy actions by the US Government in Asia and the Oriental world, have only damaged their own system's loyalty and credence. It is not impossible to trust the Americans. Yet, you can never blindly trust anyone. The Bush Jr and Obama years had already proven that the economics of war, and the strangulation of the 'manifest destiny' approach of the US, would backfire and create decentralised factions within successive US Governments. The Trump Administration was also a clear victim of it, considering the Mark Miley episode. The Biden Administration had their own series of problems with the inclusion of stakeholders such as Victoria Nuland, Eric Garcetti and Samantha Powers. Despite all these problems, the US-India has fared much better. In the words of Yew's Finest, India has shaped 'Indian Gradualism' using 'Reformed Multilateralism'.
To conclude, it is too early to decide, but it is becoming clear that key countries in the Anglosphere would have to revisit their positions on their vulnerable partners & allies, to immortalise the contradictions & eventual fissures that could hit them dearly. Nevertheless, to achieve that, they would have to squeeze out of the Cold War dilemma that has created such contradictions. In short, in the words of former Indian National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon, "the old order disintegrates and the new one struggles to be born, the advantage lies with states that clearly understand the balance of forces and have a conception of a cooperative future order".
On a lighter note, I also thank Yew's Finest to appreciate my perspective of the Indian Foreign Policy & this approach to hedge out as many risks as possible with multiple powers in a contextual sense. :)