It hasn’t taken very long for the self-appointed fount of Anglo-moralism, The Economist, to hold forth on l’affaire Nijjar.
In an attempt to put in context the mysterious assassination of Khalistani separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, the magazine has chided India for not heeding the mores of the Anglo-West. “Strategic partners”, The Economist patronisingly advises, “do not air all their dirty linen in public, and neither do they murder each other’s citizens.”
The same editorial also offers a gratuitous lesson in diplomatic etiquette to Prime Minister Narendra Modi saying that, “confident countries entrust their security to the rule of law.”
What The Economist conveniently overlooks is that earnest allies would also not allow domestic political compulsions to blithely nullify an ally’s genuine request for help. There would at least be, if nothing else, the pretence of helping. But as the facts suggest, Canada has not been in the least bit receptive to India’s concerns over Khalistani separatists using Canadian soil to finance and plot terror in Punjab.
The Economist’s take would have been acceptable had the magazine maintained a semblance of editorial fairness when apportioning guilt for Nijjar’s death. In this spurious endeavour, the magazine is not alone. Other friends of India in the Anglosphere—the US, Australia, Britain, and New Zealand—have all with one cocked eyebrow expressed “deep concern” over the “seriousness” of Canada’s charges against the Modi government.
The hand-wringing in the Anglosphere is happening even though Canada is yet to furnish even a smidgeon of proof that links India to Nijjar’s killing. As things stand, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s reliance upon “credible allegations” against India would never stand up in a court of law. As we are all aware, ‘allegations’ however vociferously levelled, don’t amount to evidence.
What is even more appalling is that none of the four countries mentioned above seem to be even in the slightest bit keen to acknowledge the glaring political compulsions that have held back the Canadian government from acting on India’s concerns over Nijjar’s terror machinations. Surely, they must be aware that Trudeau’s coalition government continues in office only because it is supported by a party founded by a Canadian Sikh who backs the Khalistani call for “snatching freedom” for the state of Punjab from India.
So deeply ingrained is Anglo-Western paternalism that India’s strategic partners aren’t even prepared to concede that New Delhi has the right to act against non-state actors that pose a threat to it. That’s presumably why the Anglophone diplomatic and media ecosystem describes Nijjar as a “plumber”, “activist”, “fatherly figure”, and a “community Samaritan”, if you please.
The flood of moralising accompanying the closing of ranks within the Anglosphere is a cause for concern for New Delhi given the long and deep ties that India has traditionally shared with the bloc. But it would be naïve to think that South Block mandarins have been caught by surprise.
For all their shared interests, the Anglo-West and India have also had a long history of differing on the approach needed to sculpt the global order.
Anglo-Western powers, who were one-time imperialists, still, in the main, harbour illusions of moral superiority. That it is their burden to heroically take liberal democracy—with its added emphasis on individual freedom, self-determination, and property rights—to all the supposedly dark corners of the world. That only ‘Western values’ can illuminate the path to a rule-based global democratic order. This misplaced sense of moral duty makes the Anglo-Western bloc see the world in binaries: the liberal democratic West versus the uncivilised rest.
It is this moral hubris that forces these ‘elites’ to think they are entitled to determine who is responsible enough to possess a nuclear deterrent or has met the criteria to belong to select institutions of global governance.
It doesn’t surprise then that these ‘elites’ are today declaring that the Modi government has no moral authority to make a case against anti-India Khalistani activism because as The Economist points out, “on its own turf [the Modi government] has muzzled the press, cowed the courts and persecuted minorities, even though none is a threat to it.”
Anglo-elites, taken in by the myth of their virtuousness, cannot appreciate another point of moral reference. Especially, when it is proffered by a former colony and now emerging superpower, such as India. It is no secret that New Delhi wants to align the rules of engagement with its own civilisational philosophy. A credo that seeks a shared future for all of humankind in an equal world. As External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the world can only be an equitable place if, “rule makers don’t subjugate rule takers. All rules will work only when they apply equally to all.”
A logical consequence of Jaishankar’s thinking means that India expects its Anglo-Western partners to take its concerns seriously. If the code of morality is to apply equally, Canada can’t, for instance, send troops to Afghanistan to help the US punish the Taliban for harbouring 9/11 plotter Osama bin Laden, but block India’s request seeking action against the Khalistanis.
Such hypocrisy deals a blow to the West’s moral credibility. After all, doesn’t the Anglosphere routinely emphasise that the ‘West’s innate sense of justice’ obliges it to intervene internationally to establish a just peace.
Instead of pillorying the Modi government, the West should be happy that India is falling upon pre-emptive diplomacy, a well-established convention of Western diplomacy, to find a just solution to the Khalistan menace.