Did Ottawa Sabotage Modi's Peace Talks?
Part 2 in the series: Is India Interfering In Canada's Affairs, or Is It the Other Way Around? Bonus content on how conspiracy theories end up in the news media.
I’m picking up here from where we left off in Monday’s Real Story, which has elicited even more calumny on top of the abuse I’d already brought upon myself for writing that column in the National Post and the Ottawa Citizen last week, Killers' poster points to Canada's failure to crack down on Khalistani extremism. I’m a racist, I’m on Narendra Modi’s payroll, I’m a liar. . . the usual.
I’m used to it. I wasn’t going to get into the grief that covering this stuff has caused me over the years, but it’s hard to avoid, because it’s personal. The Khalistanis killed my friend Tara Singh Hayer, for starters, and they got away with it, just like they got away with the Air India bombing.
Because I don’t like being told to shut up, later in this series I’ll post what I wrote for the Globe and Mail while I was in Amritsar during the Khalistani terror times. I’ll include what I wrote about my encounter with the bloodthirsty demagogue the Khalistanis call a saint, “Sikh Leader Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale.”
In my last newsletter I noted that Bhindranwale’s face appeared on a placard only last month at a rally outside India’s consulate-general office on Howe Street. There was also a giant picture of Bhindranwale behind the stage at that 2015 Khalistani rally in San Francisco where New Democratic Party leader Jagmeet Singh travelled to give a guest speech. There were even life-sized cardboard cutouts of Bhindranwale among the sword-waving gentlemen in the crowd.
Bhindranwale was killed in Indira Gandhi’s Operation Bluestar, which flushed the genocidal maniac and his barbaric militias out of the Golden Temple Complex and killed a lot of innocents in the process. So I’ll let you know what he had to say for himself, because that’s what the Khalistanis really, really don’t like me remembering.
The one thing the Khalistanis want you to remember about those times is the aftermath, and it’s very necessary to remember that. Whether 3,000 Sikhs were butchered following the revenge assassination of Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 or whether the dead numbered closer to 20,000, or whether the outrages were pogroms or a genocide, the wounds from those times remain raw.
And those wounds are still newsworthy. Here’s the news from India just this week: The Delhi high court has ruled as “unjustifiable” the Modi government’s delay of nearly 28 years in filing an appeal against the 1995 acquittal of several people accused in those 1984 rampages against India’s Sikhs.
But it was the Khalistani terror that kicked everything off, and the lies and myth-making attending to those times is what has kept the Khalistani fanaticism on the boil in Canada. I’m not going to be told to be quiet about it.
The thing is, back in the 1980s when I was a kid freelancer I made my way into Punjab surreptitiously in the middle of the night, and it was quite foolhardy when I think about it now, but I got the story. And I’ll be damned if I’ll let the truth of those times be whitewashed by a bunch of goondas who terrorize Indian diplomats and bully their way around half the gurudwaras in this country.
And the Trudeau cabinet shouldn’t be allowed to get away with papering over the fanaticism’s implications for Canada’s national security. That’s what the Trudeau government is doing - rewriting intelligence reports on national-security threats and terrorist financing networks that originate in Canada and target India. Which I’ll come to later.
Now, where’s all the aggro about “foreign interference” taking us?
Intermission: What the hell is up with NATO?
In my Postmedia column this week I’m all over the goings-on in Vilnius and the fiction that Ukraine isn’t ready for NATO membership. It’s a convenient fable to cover up NATO’s own unreadiness to admit that we’re already in a state of war with Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I’ve also just about had it with the notion put about without let or cease by the likes of Emmanuel Macron and Melanie Joly that it’s diplomacy that will eventually bring Putin to heel.
Sure, diplomats will be involved if and when that day comes. But another lesson emerges when you look back on the Camp David Accords, the British resolution to the agonies in Sierra Leone, the half-baked Bosnia and Herzegovina Dayton Accords arrangement, the there-and-back misadventure in Iraq, the “peace” betrayal of the Afghan people that left them far worse off than the “war” in that country and the Arab League’s rehabilitation of the mass murderer Bashar Assad. “Diplomacy” isn’t the cupcakes and daffodils we keep hearing about.
By all means, cleave to the reasonable idea that NATO membership for Ukraine, right now, would be precipitous. Or help yourself to the crankcase standpoints of Alex Jones, Max Blumenthal and Dimitri Lascaris. Go ahead and ease your “anti-war” conscience with crazy stories about NATO’s “encirclement” of Russia, or promises to Mikhail Gorbachev that even Gorbachev has dismissed as fabrications.
As for my own standpoint on imperialist wars of conquest of the type Putin is waging, it’s unchanged from last October. For now, coffins will have to do, with dead Russian soldiers in them. Sorry.
All I am saying is (everybody sing!) give war a chance.
Anyway back to it.
Why are we even talking about India in the first place?
Ever since last fall, when the front pages were finally bursting with reports about the Xi regime’s efforts to hotwire and short-circuit the 2019 and 2021 federal elections to the Liberals’ advantage, the Trudeau government and its friends have gone out of their way to shut down attempts at Parliamentary scrutiny, and to change the subject altogether.
From the very beginning, it’s been obstruction, evasion, roadblock and diversion. Parliamentary investigations have been stymied by tranches of redacted documents. Then there was that whitewash of a report by David Johnston, whose life has been a career of kowtowing to Beijing’s political and corporate elites.
Then there were all those nasty insinuations that the Conservatives were raising alarms because they’re just Trumpist “election denialists” determined to undermine faith in liberal democracy. And let’s not forget the lurid high-society claims that it’s all just anti-Chinese racism.
Then there’s this one: ‘The big story everyone’s ignoring is it was the Russians who were behind the “Freedom Convoy’ too,’ so Russian election interference must have happened as well. Sorry, but CSIS found no foreign actors funding the convoy protests that could justify the Emergencies Act, and there’s no evidence that Russia’s notorious disinformation machines played any role in screwing with any candidacy in 2019 or 2021.
Why These Questions Matter
In the view from Delhi, they matter to India’s integrity as a unitary state, and the “Khalistan” question is mostly a Canadian phenomenon. To all Indians of goodwill, the Khalistan agitations matter to communal harmony in their country. Inter-ethnic relations in India are often like a tinderbox, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi sometimes plays with matches. When that stuff catches fire, people die in droves.
These questions matter to the overwhelming majority of India’s Sikhs who have been subjected to decades of intermittent slaughter and want nothing to do with Khalistani rabble-rousing. They matter to Sikhs in Canada who have had to put up with murder, blind bigotry and a cold indifference to their suffering that continues to this day.
These questions matter because “the issue of foreign interference” has sparked an unprecedented national security crisis in Canada. Not to belabour the point, but last fall’s seismic shocks set off an avalanche of disclosures from whistleblowers, insiders, official testimony at House of Commons committees and leaked Privy Council intelligence assessments and top-secret memoranda about Beijing’s subterfuge.
As I’ve noted previously, even if by some strategem the Opposition parties manage to force a proper investigation under the Inquiries Act, the terms the New Democratic Party has dictated, which former Trudeau animateur Gerald Butts had already advocated, may well render a public inquiry fairly useless.
The Inquiries Act commissioner would be charged with undertaking an examination of “all aspects of foreign interference from all states, including, but not limited to, the actions of the Chinese, Indian, Iranian and Russian governments.” All of which will be put to the purpose of taking the heat off Beijing and Beijing’s friends in high places in Canada.
These questions matter to me because the news media in this country is far too susceptible to manipulation and journalism is my vocation.
So, I’ll start with the role the “mainstream” news media played in constructing the conspiracy theory that the Government of India was behind the gangland murder of Hardeep Singh Nijjar in Surrey, B.C. last month. Later on I’ll deal with the way a senior Trudeau government official happily trafficked in a baseless conspiracy theory fingering Indian spies. And how the Trudeau government papers over what it knows are terrorist threats.
What follows should give you an idea why Delhi doesn’t trust Ottawa, and why India’s Research and Analysis Wing is in all likelihood engaged in some pretty serious counter-terror espionage of its own in Canada.
How “foreign-interference” distractions end up in the news media
The 2023 prize in this amusing category: America’s far right is operating in Canada. Why don’t we consider that foreign interference?
Because the alarums in the Toronto Star article don’t consitute foreign interference by any conventional meaning of the term. And if you’re going to run a story like that, the headline should match at least something in the article itself.
Because if we’re broadly speaking about American political & cultural influences in Canada it might be worth noting the Trudeau government’s full-on policy embrace of Black Lives Matter, “Gender-Affirming” surgical interventions offered to children or the CBC’s celebration of Unilever’s Ben & Jerry’s ice cream brand for its proposals for federal policy on Indigenous affairs. That kind of thing. Not “far right” though, so I guess this stuff doesn’t count.
At the Liberals’ national policy shindig a couple of months ago the keynote speaker was Hillary Clinton, bless her heart. But let’s be fair, at least. That’s not “foreign interference,” either. What’s really worth remembering about that gathering is that the disgraced former prime minister Jean Chretien, who has been greasing palms in Beijing ever since he was chased out of Ottawa by Paul Martin’s Liberals 20 years ago, was celebrated like some kind of conquering hero.
Here’s Chretien’s view of Beijing’s election interference operations: “Ten or 15 constituencies in Canada at most? I don’t think it’s a very big problem.”
Then there was this Toronto Star piece last week by my friend Joanna Chiu: A website spread disinformation about Canada. Why did major Indian outlets treat it as news? Answer: Because just like the legacy media in Canada, the decline of professional standards in the Indian news media allows lunatic mumbo jumbo to easily seep through otherwise respectable newsrooms. It’s just that there’s just a hell of a lot more opportunities for that in India, where there are a hell of a lot more half-empty newsrooms.
I’m not dissing Joanna’s piece here. She relies on a fascinating study from back in February by the eminently creditable EU Disinfo Lab that explores pseudo-news platforms and digital mischief-making out of India that finds its way into Canada. Some of it’s downright comical: University professors who don’t exist, newspapers that don’t exist - the Toronto Mail, the Quebec Telegraph, the Times of Manitoba - that sort of thing. But the EU Disinfo report doesn’t finger the Indian government.
Two years ago, the BBC undertook an investigation based on the same EU Disinfo Lab efforts in monitoring and exposing fraud in that same weird media ecosystem, The dead professor and the vast pro-India disinformation campaign. “There is no evidence the network is linked to India's government,” the report notes.
Joanna’s story was very interesting, but let’s just say the timing was. . . awkward. It came in the middle of a mass international panic directed at the Government of India, originating in Canada and circulated by the Canadian news media. The “killers” posters, the deranged sloganeering at last weekend’s pathetically attended Khalistani rallies, the high-stakes diplomatic uproars - the whole thing was kicked off by a “Sikhs for Justice” conspiracy theory that puts Indian diplomats, not Canadian diplomats, in the crosshairs.
Here’s the lunatic proposition: Narendra Modi’s government in Delhi contracted some lowlife gangsters to whack a Khalistani guy, Hardeep Singh Nijjar, in Surrey last month. The problem with the theory should be obvious, as in, seriously? Conveniently overlooked by almost everybody: Nijjar had been engaged in a blood feud with a former Khalistani guy who had renounced the Khalistani cause and quite brazenly gone over to Narendra Modi’s side.
That guy, the multimillionaire Ripudaman Singh Malik, had once been so hardcore he was in the Babbar Khalsa circle that carried off the 1985 Air India bombing. And Malik was similarly and coincidentally whacked last summer. Nijjar’s crew did not like him one bit. The cops have pinched a couple of lowlife gangbangers in the Malik murder case.
Here’s some necessary backstory involving Malik’s reconciliation with the Modi government. Malik wasn’t alone. Far from it.
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