As if it weren’t enough for Washington to drive Russia and China together, its with-us-or-against-us attitude is also alienating India and is providing evermore incentive for New Delhi and Beijing to put aside their differences. Washington is upset that India continues to play a central role in the development of BRICS, maintains strong and profitable ties with Russia, and generally refuses to follow neocon orders to be a US bulwark against China in South Asia.
The US has tried to woo New Delhi and Prime Minister Narendra Modi since the outbreak of the Ukraine war while also not shying away from applying pressure. The latter is beginning to increase as the neocons in the state department grow impatient with New Delhi’s ongoing refusal to bend its national interest to meet US demands. Washington is responding the only way it knows how: by becoming more confrontational – an approach that will almost certainly only motivate India to work out its differences with China, grow even closer to Russia and work harder to fortify BRICS.
The most recent dust up between India and the West involves the killing of a man in Canada. In June, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, an advocate for an independent Sikh state, was shot dead outside a Sikh temple in British Columbia. Some Sikhs in Indian diaspora communities support the establishment of an independent nation called Khalistan in the Indian state of Punjab. A failed insurgency there in the 1980s and 1990s led to a sizable emigration to Canada, the UK, and the US.
Canada has accused New Delhi of orchestrating Nijar’s killing. India has denied the allegations and accused Canada of hosting Sikh extremist groups.
According to the New York Times, the US provided the intelligence for Trudeau’s claims. Importantly, however, the US came out soon after and backed Ottawa. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called it a case of “transnational repression.” US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that India does not have a “special exemption” to carry out actions like extrajudicial killings.
(A quick side note: The US killed up to 16,900 people in drone strikes between just between 2010 and 2020. Obama even whacked US citizens in Yemen, including a 16-year-old who was born in Colorado. Trump later took out his eight-year-old sister.)
The FBI is also apparently warning Sikhs in the US that India might come after them too. Canada apparently did the same for Nijar, but as The Canada Files points out, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service has a long, suspect history with Sikh separatists:
CSIS’ fingerprints are all over the 1985 Sikh separatist bombing of Air India 182 which killed all 329 people on board, 268 of whom were Canadian citizens. The bombing came after Operation Blue Star led to the massacre of 5000 to 7000 Sikhs in 1984.
At minimum, CSIS knew about the bombing plot by Sikh separatists desiring the creation of a state called Khalistan from India’s Punjab region, and let it happen. Between 1984 and 1985, both CSIS and the RCMP had three informants tell them about a bombing plot against an Air India flight, but all were deemed unreliable. A CSIS agent who was a suspect in the Air India bombings, Surjan Singh Gill, knew about the bomb plot against Air India 182 and 301. An RCMP transcript indicated “that CSIS agents observed Gill and the suspects in Vancouver just days before the bombings, followed their movements and tapped their phones.”
After the bombing of Air India 182, in 1985, CSIS destroyed wiretaps of “critical wiretaps of Air India suspects”. 156 out of 210 wiretaps of Air India lead plotter Talwinder Singh Parmar’s phone calls, in the three months leading up to the bombing, were destroyed….
Nijjar had been warned by CSIS of a likely assassination plot against him back in 2022, though from whom was not mentioned by the Globe and Mail. Yet, as demonstrated by its conduct around the Sikh separatist bombing plot against Air India flights, CSIS having knowledge of plots hasn’t historically stopped it from standing by when they happen. There is certainly no proof that CSIS let Nijjar’s killing happen, but there’s precedent for them letting something of this type occur towards Canadians. At minimum, the timing of these revelations being shared has major utility for CSIS, and should be questioned.
While this is the most serious dust-up between India and the West since the war in Ukraine began, it is hardly the first.
Maybe just as important as the brouhaha over the Canada affaire, is the fact that the US has begun to enact sanctions on Indian companies – the first known measures against any Indian business since the beginning of the Ukraine war. Reuters reported at the end of August:
India has asked the U.S. to allow the release of $26 million belonging to at least two Indian diamond firms that was frozen due to their alleged trade links with sanctioned Russian diamond major Alrosa, three Indian sources told Reuters.
The funds were frozen earlier this year due to U.S. sanctions on Alrosa that were imposed in April 2022 by the U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, two of the sources said. Both the sources are Indian government officials, who declined to identify themselves or the companies, citing the sensitivity of the matter.
Indian commentators have written about how the US going the sanctions route will only backfire and lead to opposite of where the US desires, which is pretty much the neocons’ modus operandi, however, so more sanctions should be expected.
Washington’s vassals in the EU are also planning to indirectly take action against the Indian diamond industry via a Russian diamond ban. Belgium has recently done an about face on the issue as long as there are physical controls on diamonds and traceability using blockchain technology that will document a diamond’s source and every step of its journey. Such a tracking system would decimate the Indian diamond industry. According to the Financial Times, removing Russian diamonds from circulation would risk hundreds of thousands of jobs in India, which relies on Russia for 60 percent of the gems it processes.
The German Greens, meanwhile, eagerly embrace their role as neocon attack dogs and lecture India on what its relationship with Russia should be and threaten to try to involve the UN in Kashmir. German Vice-Chancellor and Economy Minister Robert Habeck went off on a three-day visit to India in July, and on the very first day he started going on about how New Delhi must condemn “Russia’s war in Ukraine.” Habeck said while he respected India’s own “tradition and partnership with Russia,” the country cannot remain neutral while the war is ongoing.
Of course, German FM Annalena Baerbock towards the end of last year joined the US in trying to pressure India to cut ties with Russia by using threats over Kashmir. With Pakistan foreign minister Bilawal Bhutto Zardari at her side, Baerbock said “Germany has a role and responsibility with regard to the situation of Kashmir. Therefore, we support intensively the engagement of the United Nations to find peaceful solutions in the region.”
Baerbock’s comments were not well-received in India:
How Russian foreign minister Lavrov was welcomed in India vs German foreign minister Baerbock……
— Richard (@ricwe123) March 4, 2023
India has stated for decades that the Kashmir issue must be solved bilaterally, so one would think that Baerbock knew what she was saying wouldn’t go over well. Her statements also came around the same time the U.S. State Department enraged India when it approved a $450 million deal to upgrade Pakistan’s F-16 fleet. They followed that up with the US ambassador to Pakistan creating more tension during a visit to the Pakistani-held part of Kashmir, which he called by its Pakistani name instead of the United Nations-approved name “Pakistan-administered Kashmir.”
Elsewhere, the US Commission for International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) just held a hearing focusing on alleged Indian abuses. From Indian Express:
Appearing before the USCIRF for the hearing on policy options for advancing religious freedom in India, de Varennes alleged there is a “steady” and “alarming” erosion of fundamental rights, particularly of religious and other minorities in the country.
“India risks becoming one of the world’s main generators of instability, atrocities and violence because of the massive scale and gravity of the violations and abuses targeting mainly religious and other minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs and others. It is not just individual or local, it is systematic and a reflection of religious nationalism,” he said.
While all of this may be true, these types of US efforts to address religious, gender, and/or ethnic issues in other countries are almost always selectively applied in order to apply pressure on or foment discord in countries the US is targeting. And the Washington Post just came out with an ongoing series of stories going after the Modi government for actions that don’t even rise to the level of what the Biden administration has done or attempted to do with the media.
1. How the BJP and Indian right uses a massive whatsapp pyramid model to spread election material that is often inflammatory and impossible to monitor — a machine that it pioneered and mastered like no party in the world. We went to Karnataka to observe https://t.co/ZS5b94RFqy
— Gerry Shih (@gerryshih) September 27, 2023
Modi is also being blamed for failures in the effort to “contain” China. All of this could be a sign of a more aggressive approach coming against New Delhi for its strong relationship with Russia, as well as its role in BRICS. As former Indian diplomat MK Bhadrakumar writes:
The Nijjar affair poses an existential dilemma. Surrendering to the US diktat will make India look a surrogate state and a laughing stock in the Global South. Indians won’t approve of it.
On the contrary, ignoring the diktat will be hugely consequential. Make no mistake, Five Eyes had a gory history against the Soviet Union; in the post-cold war era, it all but destabilised Hong Kong, and is today an active player in Myanmar and Thailand in India’s neighbourhood. Its entry in the subcontinent is ominous.
In a week’s time already, what appeared to be an investigation into a murder case has got entangled with the “rules-based order” and the working of the “international system” — and the BRICS. That is a dramatic escalation signalling discontent with the government.
Any threat from the US, however, only seems to be speeding up cooperation with Russia. Trade between the two powers has exploded thanks to Western sanctions. From Russia Briefing:
In 2019, bilateral trade amounted to US$11.20 billion, declining to US$9.26 billion in 2020 (covid), while rebounding to US$13.60 billion in 2021. Overall, the covid pandemic was a serious obstacle to the pre-existing growth of Russian-Indian economic cooperation. It did not however derail the overall trend of growing trade partnership between the two countries. For instance, between April 2022 and February 2023, bilateral trade reached a record US$45 billion. Russia moved from 25th to 7th position among Indian trading partners, after the US, China, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Indonesia….
In 2022 India displaced Europe as the main buyer of offshore oil from Russia. India increased its imports of Russian oil by 16 times, making up a third of all deliveries to the country. India began buying Russian oil for UAE dirhams and roubles. Purchases of Russian oil allowed Moscow and New Delhi to quickly overcome the US$30 billion bilateral trade target that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi previously agreed to reach only by 2025. This achievement allows the two countries to even set higher standards in bilateral trade.
And setting higher standards they are doing. India and Russia continued to discuss the development of the Eastern Maritime Corridor at the recent Eastern Economic Forum in Vladivostok. The route connects Chennai on India’s southeastern coast to Russia’s Far East and could reduce transit times by up to 16 days. There were also talks about expanding trade between the Russian Arctic and India, including an agreement for Russia to train Indians in the navigation of polar waters and a New Delhi proposal to build icebreakers at its shipyards.
Just as neocon efforts against Russia and China helped drive the two closer than ever, the same outcome could be on the horizon for New Delhi and Beijing. The two nations no doubt have their issues, including a thorny border dispute, but an understanding seems to be coalescing around the necessity of finding common ground free from Western meddling. Washington’s pressure campaign on India will only cement that feeling. From Russia Briefing:
There may also be some future rapprochement with China. New Delhi’s relations with Beijing have been problematic since the late 1950’s and related to border issues created in the wake of vagaries associated with the borders of Tibet, as well as China’s long standing support for Pakistan.
Historically, some of these were influenced by Beijing’s desire to keep New Delhi pre-occupied with security issues while it engaged on a decades-long process of economic reform. In 1960, India’s GDP was US$36 billion, today it is 3.2 trillion. To compare, China’s GDP was US$59 billion in 1960 but is now US$4.2 trillion. Should China feel that its policy of deliberately pushing India down has now run its course, then border settlements may be on the agenda – certainly as Messrs Modi and Xi appear to have good personal relations. If so, the addition of India as part of the Global South will also feed directly into its relations with Russia. Moscow of course will be happy to act as a broker.
Neocon efforts to reverse US decline continue to only hasten the imperial collapse. Their divide and rule tactics keep backfiring in spectacular fashion. Russia and China are closer than ever. The BRICS is expanding with a foundation that becomes stronger with each US-led effort to weaken it. Saudi Arabia and Iran are working through their differences. And the efforts to stir up trouble in the Caucasus via Armenia will likely only force other countries in the region closer together and isolate Armenia.