INDIA CANADA DEALINGS | Truth behind the optics

All seemed well between the two countries, until Canadian Prime Minister made that shocking allegation in his parliament that Indian government orchestrated the assassination of a Mr Nijjar, a Canadian citizen on Canadian soil. This unfortunate announcement has cast emerging shadows of a place and people that has been perceived an ideal place to live, after the home country. Indians are the third largest non European immigrant group, about 4 percent of Canadian population, approximately 1.3 million people, following Chinese and Filipino descent that has made it their home. Canada has been growing trade partner of India, especially in education sector, over 23000 students are studying in Canadian universities. This has been well appreciated in Canadian-Indo-pacific strategy document published in 2022. Why so sudden drifting then?

There is nothing new about the exhibition of the dissent movements, secessionist asylum seekers of the sub-continental anti state politics, in Canada. Though it is no surprise that over the years, its show of strength and support networks have increased, but what is surprising is the timing of that formal inferred support in the public announcement. The hurried statement that seemed not fully verified indicates about comprehensive turning of paths in the New Cold war polemics. The Old Cold War is over, but New Cold War between THE US and China is taking strides. It has ramifications for sub-continental politics as well. Canada’s foreign policy is in line with the US interests. The present open controversy is recognized as recasting of US new initiatives to dent Chinas’ progression and restrict India’s endeavor beyond its dictate. History’s irony, when US Cold war with Soviet Union in 1960s was at peak, China ceased an opportunity to have foothold in POK by the Sino-Pakistan Agreement (also known as the Sino-Pakistan Frontier Agreement and Sino-Pak Boundary Agreement) in 1963, with the tacit the US consent.

Subsequently, China Russia (USSR) border dispute had come open to surface. This leased Shaksgam valley (POK) to China in exchange of military and nuclear technology to Pakistan, a glue to sustain its animosity with India. That was an Old Cold war between US and then USSR.

Years down, China used the same strip to position its most ambitious OROB project for the global connectivity. USSR disintegrated; the Old Cold War has turned into New Cold War with Chinese rise in economic and military power to set its own agenda. China launched OROB project, sour to the US eyes, a cause for the churning of international politics. Gaza conflict, US renewed love for Pakistan is seen as check and balance measured for US influence. Arab world is back to the circle and Pakistan’s disillusionment with US is instantly over. Popular leader, former Prime Minister Imran Khan is in jail, self exiled Nawaz sharif is back to call shots. The CPEC, gain and loss debate had reemerged, ‘those that drain capital from you are to be reformed and changed’.

The endless cycle of borrowing needs to readdress the established canon of its foreign policy. China seems to be affected by it. The US ambassador to Pakistan Donald Blome’s recent visit to Gilgit-Baltistan and interactions with the locals has raised many eye brows in political spheres in India as well as in China. India’s outreach to African countries no doubt has international consensus but controlled wings to take flight. The openings of window of Canada against India and new friendliness for Pakistan indicate that Kashmir militancy might not go away, so easily. America does not bother for any ally to drop, when US interests are better met from the other part.

It is a wake call for India. India needs to be careful in handling the internal situation; an inclusive policy of participatory development for all the diverse sections of society must come to the mind set of middle rung bureaucracy. Pakistan’s endeavor to link Kashmir with Gaza in future looks Kashmir dispute turning from Indo-Pak dispute, of two native communities dispute, like Gaza for two states solution. The way new literature on Kashmir and voice of Kashmiri pandits find international support and different understanding of Kashmir problem, with advent of new century through post modern lenses. It is a qualitative break from no understanding to afresh comprehension of nativity fracture.

Pakistan remains in the same mode of wooing China and going with US, so long it serves its internal stability. Canada for long had been a sleeping partner of US, now made into a vocal confronted country. Since 1960s, Canada has come a long way, when oil was discovered in Alberta. It has strong and diversified economy. Chinese and Indians have been the most important sources of new permanent residents to Canada for many years. Historically, Canada had relied upon Western Europe for the major supplier of immigrants, Americans, Britain and French were preferred choices. The method of nation making after the World War 11, relied on the Royal Commission reports that gave charter status to British and French Canadians. This was known as the Bilingualism and Biculturalism of Canada.

It changed in the seventies, when the Immigrants from non European origins became visible in all fields, chiefly known as oriental labour. At the same time, French nationalism in Quebec had posed serious challenge to Canadian sovereignty on the verge of violent explosion. It was recognized as a “nation within the nation”. It opened spaces for silent visible minorities to register their dissent and ask for their share in resources and power dynamics. In order to pacify Quebec nationalism and also to accommodate visible minorities, Canada was declared multicultural country, where all cultures notionally were presumed to be at par.

The visible minorities were recognized as the ‘Third Force’ by the Royal Commission. It was an experimentation, alternative to American ‘Melting Pot Thesis of Cultures’. Recognition of difference to assimilation needed unequivocal political will to implement. It did not happen. British are on top and South Asian visible minorities were at the bottom of the hierarchy.
Globalization brought out the cultural contradictions and economic disparities of this cultural mosaic thesis, through racial hierarchy with simmering undercurrents. Multiculturalism has lost its allure. Canada is now experimenting with racial parity though permitting power accessibility to visible minorities, the third force. Understandably, the homogenized political support of a sleeping US partner has undergone churning with immigrants having their own agenda with distant nationalisms. Their political empowerment means empowerment of their distant political pasts as well. It is bound to happen with colliding of nationalisms.

The radical patriotism for the new country under the kernel of imagined nationalism of their original country is a contradiction. That is what cultural mosaic thesis is. It suits US for international engineering, irrespective of party holding power. There has been class shift of migrants, both at old and new home countries. The hybrid consciousness unsettled with the present, and nostalgic with the past, is devoid of any loyalty and idealism.

The cultural debate is not in black and white realm, as is economic sphere; it needs thorough understanding of history and visualizing of future. It is not out of compassion that Canada has pro immigrant policy, but it is its requirement to meet the challenges of the present. White population is decreasing and they are loathe to the jobs done for day to day survival like, cleaning of buildings, railway stations, institutions airports and other mechanical jobs of constructions. These are performed by nonwhites, mostly. Canada depends on oriental labour. The new immigrants are educated, skilled as well. With global awareness about their rights and obligations, their demands are mounting and shaping the political landscape of Canada. This has ramifications also for the immigrant’s original countries.

The reports suggest that ‘the composition of immigration if remains the same projection, in 2036 between 55.7% and 57.9% of Canada’s immigrant population would be Asian-born, up from 44.8% in 2011. Conversely, the proportion of European immigrants would decrease from 31.6% in 2011 to between 15.4% and 17.8% in 2036. Therefore, the arrival of many individuals born abroad affects not only population growth, but also the ethno-cultural and language composition of the immigrant population’.

The systematic equilibrium at the moment is managed by economic prosperity. Once it gets beating, the internal social cracks will appear at micro level interactions and power play matrix. It is bound to happen. Despite Canadian state mechanism to show problems rolling up from Asian countries, the fact is that cultural realm is more powerful than economic stricture.

The only remedy is peaceful negotiations and recognition that old societies have profound survival instinct than the scientifically and economically advanced new states. The alternate modernity has purchase in peaceful exploration of the old societies for renewed models of plural accommodation. There are no choices, other than this acknowledgment.

Retired Emeritus professor of sociology at Banaras Hindu university

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