A recent pan-India survey conducted by CVoter reveals both pragmatism and hard nationalism amongst Indians across the ideological spectrum.
Cvoter conducts surveys related to political, economic, social and even global issues on a weekly basis; sometimes more than once a week. Almost always, the surveys reveal sharp differences of opinion among respondents who support rival political formations. Canada is a rare issue where the differences have virtually disappeared and replaced by near unanimity. It is perhaps this New India that baffles condescending western leaders, analysts and commentators. But it is an India that they have to learn to deal with.
As far as Indians are concerned, the Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau is a car, ship or train wreck, depending on your choice of metaphors. Yet, they also think that relations between India and Canada have not been wrecked beyond repair.
After the May 1998 nuclear tests when the developed Anglosphere and its allies sanctioned and hectored India, it has never witnessed a full-blown diplomatic crisis with a G-7 nation like with Canada at the moment. This is turning out to be a test of nerves and steel not just for India, but also for the United States, its Five Eyes, G-7 and NATO allies. Most respondents during a pan-India survey conducted over the Indo-Canadian diplomatic standoff displayed high levels of clarity.
Perhaps the most pragmatic response came when Indians were asked their opinion about the future of Indo-Canadian relations. The manner in which Justin Trudeau used the Canadian parliament to accuse India of being involved in an “assassination” inside Canada without providing a shred of evidence has inflamed passions in India. Most Indians (more than 70%) in the survey think India must act in a tit for tat manner for every provocative act by Canada. Of course, without the top political leadership indulging in any rhetoric, India has already gone way beyond tit for tat.
Not only has it returned favours by expelling one Canadian diplomat but also suspended issuing visas to all Canadian nationals and also demanding “parity” in staff which is effectively asking Canada to close one of its three consulates in India. Yet, Indians also think the relations have not reached a point of no return. The survey asked a specific question: Do you think good relations with Canada have become impossible? While about 36% of the respondents agreed with the statement, a higher proportion of 39% had a contrary opinion. A significant proportion was ambivalent as one fourth of the respondents had no opinion on the issue. So relations with Canada are not yet beyond the pale.
But the problem seems to be Justin Trudeau. Ever since his disastrous visit to India in 2018 where he attempted to bring along known sympathisers of Khalistan, he has done everything possible to provoke and infuriate India. Trudeau and his cronies in the Liberal Party keep parroting how it is bad to interfere in the internal matters of another country. But Trudeau himself had publicly issued statements supporting the groups of farmers who had blockaded India’s capital Delhi for more than 10 months to protest against the farm laws.
Of course, when truckers in Canada gathered in 2022 to protest against draconian vaccine and mask mandates, Trudeau called them Nazis, froze their bank accounts and had them arrested. Indians seem acutely aware of the political motives of Trudeau. When asked if Trudeau is supporting Khalistani, three out of every five respondents stated yes.
There seems to be clarity about his real intentions too. When asked what the real reasons were behind the wild allegations of Trudeau, more than 26% of the respondents said he wants to gain electorally in the 2025 elections, more than 22% said he is acting under pressure from the pro Khalistani party NDP and more than 20% say he is doing all this to divert attention from an economic crisis and his rapidly growing unpopularity. Opinion polls in Canada reveal that Trudeau’s Liberal Party is tailing way behind the rival Conservative Party and would be trounced if elections were held now.
A majority of Indians also think that the irresponsible behaviour of Trudeau and his government is endangering the lives of Indian diplomats in Canada. Since the 1980s, Canada has refused to cooperate with Indian authorities to rein in Khalistani extremists and terrorists who blew up the Air India aircraft in 1985 mid-air killing 329 people on board; most of them Canadian citizens. There was some degree of improvement this century, particularly when the conservative leader Stephen Harper was Prime Minister. But things have gone downhill since Trudeau became Prime Minister in 2015.
Radical separatists have organised parades where tableaux have gloried the assassination of former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, organised farcical referendums in support of Khalistan and repeatedly attacked the Indian High Commission and consulates. More chillingly, they have openly named and threatened senior Indian diplomats based in Canada. During the CVoter survey, about 54% of the respondents said that the lives of Indian diplomats in that country are in danger.
For a country that has suffered from terrorism since the early 1980s (nurtured, financed and promoted mostly by Pakistan) many Indians still think that the Indian response has usually not been robust enough.
Not surprisingly, the survey reveals that barely 16% of the respondents think Indian agencies were involved in the June 2023 murder of Nijjar while close to 60% are of the opinion that Indian agencies were not involved. However, it gets more interesting. The survey asked for reactions assuming Indian agencies were involved in the murder. More than three out of every five respondents said that, in that event, the Indian agencies did the right thing. Less than 14% of the respondents were of the opinion that India did the wrong thing. But it gets even more interesting. To dig deeper into the psyche of the average Indian, the survey asked: do you agree that terrorists working against India should be hunted down and eliminated by agencies anywhere in the world, be it Pakistan or Canada or any other country? An astounding 84% of the respondents said yes with less than 8% saying no.
For Trudeau and his cronies and for western “experts” who have made it a habit to demean a demonise India under any pretext, the CVoter survey does send a message that a New India is indeed shaping up. It is not the majoritarian Hindutva or fascist India that you so frequently allude to, but a pragmatic but confident India that is not willing to take nonsense anymore from anyone. Despite deep internal political and ideological divides. Barring a shrinking section of “brown coolies” and chronic malcontents, India is one on this issue. The era of offering the other cheek is coming to an end. It is time for a commandment found in the Book of Exodus: An eye for an eye.
Yashwant Deshmukh is Founder & Editor in Chief of CVoter Foundation and Sutanu Guru is Executive Director.