Justin Trudeau dropped a bombshell when he told the House of Commons that his government was investigating “credible allegations” that India had committed an assassination on Canadian soil. These explosive revelations poisoned the relationship between the two countries, and led to an exchange of diplomatic reprisals. The repercussions of this international relations scandal represents yet another blow to Western imperialism, against the backdrop of the decline of the American empire and the rise of China.
According to the Canadian Prime Minister, the secret service has evidence that Indian agents were behind the assassination last June of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, British Columbia. Singh was riddled with bullets in the parking lot of a Sikh temple. The secret service is said to have incriminating communications between Indian diplomats.
Singh was a Sikh nationalist leader and an important figure in the independence movement of Khalistan, a region in northern Punjab. India, which accused him of being a terrorist, offered a bounty for his arrest. According to his family, Singh had received death threats and sought police protection.
At the start of this saga, some pointed out that it was strange for Trudeau to trigger such a diplomatic crisis on the basis of mere “allegations”. The explanation came later, when it emerged that the Globe and Mail was preparing to publish the allegations, based on testimony from confidential sources within the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Trudeau obviously chose to cut short any possibility of being accused of turning a blind eye to yet another case of “foreign interference”, after the drama surrounding alleged Chinese interference in Canada.
We must emphasize once again the scandalous nature of “political interference” by CSIS spies. After raising allegations of Chinese interference in the mainstream media to push for a conflict with China and embarrass Trudeau, CSIS agents have once again interfered in politics in the Hardeep Singh affair. It is becoming increasingly clear that elements—probably conservative—within CSIS are trying to sabotage the Liberal government, even by illegal means. This reflects the crisis in capitalist institutions, which is causing conflict within the bourgeois state apparatus itself.
We must also point out the incredible hypocrisy revealed by this saga. While a commission of inquiry was set up to investigate China’s interference after a fear-mongering campaign in the media, and a hue and cry in parliament, the response is now much calmer when it’s an ally who is responsible for the interference. Yet the forms of alleged Chinese interference are quite harmless compared with an assassination. We’re talking about a bus provided to a few hundred old Chinese women to enable them to exercise their right to vote, and vague allegations of intimidation.
What’s more, as former CSIS analyst Jessica Davis explains: “A targeted killing is not a country’s first step in foreign interference in a country… It’s a real escalation.” In other words, and as members of the Indian diaspora in Canada have already warned the authorities, this is only the most extreme form of Indian interference in the country to date. One need only imagine the international uproar that a Chinese assassination on Canadian soil would have caused to underline the double standard.
Sand in the gears
The Indian government denies any involvement in Singh’s death. But the accusation, if true, represents a serious infringement on the principle of state sovereignty. No state, especially an imperialist power like Canada, can allow another to kill its citizens on its own territory.
Despite the seriousness of the accusation made by the Canadian government, its Western allies have been extremely cautious in denouncing India, limiting themselves to vaguely expressing their “concern”. This contrasts sharply with, for example, the treatment meted out to Russia after its attempted assassination of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal on British soil. This event triggered a wave of expulsions of Russian diplomats from Western capitals. Today, Canada is the only country to have expelled Indian diplomats.
Indeed, Western imperialism is reluctant to alienate India. For several years, Western imperialism, led by the United States, France, and the United Kingdom has been courting India. Faced with the rise of China and the weakening hegemony of the United States on the world stage, a conflict between the world’s two leading powers is in the offing. The U.S. is endeavoring to bring into line allies such as Canada, which have grown close to China in recent decades. They are also trying to establish new alliances and partnerships, particularly in the Indo-Pacific, to counterbalance China. India, the world’s second most populous country behind China, a rising economic power and a long-standing adversary of China, represents a crucial strategic partner in this respect.
Western capitals, including Washington, have rolled out the red carpet for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on several occasions in recent years. The UK is currently negotiating a trade deal with India, and France has stepped up its military partnership with the country, to the point where it is now its main arms supplier. The United States is in the process of establishing partnerships with India on various fronts, notably in defense and high-tech. Canada was also in trade negotiations with India until the week before Trudeau’s bombshell announcement.
The West presents its closer ties with India as justified by the idea that it is the ” largest democracy ” on the planet. It readily turns a blind eye to the brutal nature of Modi’s regime and the many violations of the basic norms of bourgeois democracy by the Indian state, with the Western media not hesitating to portray the Indian prime minister as a kind of wise old man with a quasi-mystical aura.
That image is now taking a serious beating. Far from being a cool-headed, reasonable old sage, a sort of Indian Angela Merkel, Modi leads a far-right nationalist party, the BJP, and is more of a demagogue in the vein of Bolsonaro or Trump. The newspaper of British finance capital, the Financial Times, recently published a feature article entitled “The west’s Modi problem”, in which it is explained:
“During nine years in office, Modi has built a formidable political base and sought to project greater power overseas, including in its intelligence operations. But the Indian leader and key figures in his Bharatiya Janata party have also been accused by critics both in India and abroad of stoking sectarianism, undermining India’s secular values and hindering or targeting journalists and civil society groups—actions that have led some of its partners to question its democratic standards.
“India’s western democratic allies have mostly kept their comments about these concerns compartmentalized—aired in brief remarks or behind closed doors—in the broader interest of a valued strategic relationship. But if Canada’s allegations of an Indian state-backed, extraterritorial assassination are found to be true, they will struggle to keep quiet.”
This assassination highlights the repressive nature of the Indian state and the violent Hindu nationalism encouraged by Modi. It represents only a tiny fraction of the state violence unleashed against ethnic and religious minorities and protest movements, as we saw with the brutal attacks on the farmers’ movement in 2021 or the anti-Muslim pogroms encouraged by Modi.
At a time when the West is trying to lure India into its fold, even if it means whitewashing its image in the process, a wrench has just been thrown into the gears. It’s a new embarrassment for Western imperialists, after years of one embarrassment after another.
Might makes right
What’s more, to conceal the economic and geopolitical interests behind this imperialist conflict with China, the West hides behind the fig leaf of international law. In “Canada’s Strategy for the Indo-Pacific”, which announced Canada’s hostility towards China, the Canadian government justified its hostility on the grounds that China does not respect the “rules-based international order”.
“Respect for the sovereignty of other states is a cornerstone of the rules-based international order”, the document states. Now that India, an important strategic partner of Western imperialists, is failing to respect this sovereignty, the latter are much more lenient.
It’s the same double standard we saw with Saudi Arabia, which remained a Western partner even after murdering and dismembering Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey. The list of assassinations, attempted assassinations, attacks, and coups d’état committed by Western imperialist powers would run for pages. As recently as 2020, the United States assassinated an Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani, on Iraqi soil. More broadly, the Pentagon’s drone strikes have killed at least 17,000 people—including nearly 2,000 civilians—overseas since 2002 in Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan and, of course, in India’s closest neighbor, Pakistan.
In reality, “international order” in the imperialist era is always “based on rules”… dictated by the greatest powers. The United States and its allies constantly violate other state’s sovereignty—to carry out their own assassinations, only they do so in compliance with the rules they themselves have established. Especially since the American invasion of Iraq, lawyers for the American state have performed legal acrobatics to legally justify extraterritorial assassinations, playing with the definition of concepts such as “self-defence” and “territorial sovereignty”.
Thus, the insistence of Canada and other Western imperialists on a “rules-based international order” is really an insistence on maintaining their hegemony, which has enabled them to exploit, plunder, and dominate the rest of the planet for over a century.
The assassination of a Canadian citizen by India and the relatively timid reaction of Western imperialists are in this sense highly revealing of the changing balance of power on the world stage.
It’s usually the poor countries, crushed under the boots of the imperialists, who have to suffer violations of their territorial sovereignty without being able to do much about it. Paradoxically, in order to maintain this hegemony, the imperialists now have to win over rising powers like India—who used to be under the brutal colonial boot of Britain—which have no desire to play by “their rules”.
The crisis of capitalism
The India-Canada conflict, in the final analysis, is only a small part of a general rebalancing of forces. It shows that, while India has increased its cooperation with the U.S.A., France, the U.K., Australia, etc. in recent years, this cooperation is perhaps more important to them than to her. India is not as weak as it used to be, and they are not as strong.
The British, for example, who have been negotiating a trade partnership with India for the last 18 months, are beginning to feel that India is dragging their feet and perhaps stringing them along by the nose, and that they don’t have the clout they’d imagined.
At the same time, India has stepped up its relations with other countries, such as Russia, with which it has massively increased its trade. In fact, it refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, much to the chagrin of its Western courtiers. In a blow to the world monetary system dominated by the U.S. dollar, it has also begun buying oil from the United Arab Emirates in rupees.
While the West is trying to bring India into its bloc against China and Russia, New Delhi is balancing between the West and its enemies in order to leverage advantages for itself.
It’s the same relative decline we’ve seen with a series of defeats and humiliations for the imperialists in recent years, for example with the American failures in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. We’ve also seen it with the war in Ukraine, in which NATO failed to get as many countries behind it as it would have liked, even countries it took for granted, such as Israel, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Brazil, and Mexico. More recently, the same phenomenon has been behind the decline in French imperialist influence in Africa, with a series of coups d’état against Paris-controlled regimes.
The contradictions of the capitalist system are causing crises on all fronts, and imperialist powers like Canada, the U.S.A., France, and the U.K. are struggling to keep control of the situation. Their economies are stagnating. Their ruling classes are weakened, senile and run by increasingly short-sighted and stupid politicians. This limits their capacity for military and diplomatic intervention. On the other hand, despite the general crisis, former colonial or semi-colonial countries are taking advantage of the relative decline of Western imperialism to carve up a place for themselves.
The Hardeep Singh saga is symptomatic of the crisis of capitalism, which is leading to a relative weakening of the United States and the end of the post-U.S.S.R. world order. Western powers no longer command the same respect, and “developing countries” such as India are beginning to be able to intervene with greater vigor, even stepping on the toes of their former masters.
This shaking-up of the balance of power between the old imperialist masters of the world and the new regional powers is leading to increasing instability, conflicts, and wars.
At the same time, as this crisis progresses, imperialist countries are pushed to resort to increasingly desperate measures to maintain themselves and their position on the world stage. By doing so, they are letting their democratic mask slip, revealing the bellicose, tyrannical face of these hypocritical exploiters. The task of communists is to highlight this hypocrisy and organize to overthrow the imperialists and their system of exploitation, misery, and war.