Roving Periscope: India more important to the US than Canada, says ex-Pentagon official
New Delhi: Rather than as a trusted friend or a good neighbor, the United States often viewed Canada as an unreliable ‘stepbrother’ who sided with Great Britain when 13 British colonies struggled against London for independence and merged to become America in the late 18th century.
Amid the Indo-Canada faceoff, Washington may choose New Delhi over Ottawa, according to a former Pentagon official.
Recently, India invited US President Joe Biden as the Chief Guest at the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi on January 26, 2024. This shows the growing bonhomie and partnership between the world’s two largest democracies.
Former Pentagon official Michael Rubin, now a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute with specialization in Iran, Turkey, and South Asia, said if the US has to choose between Canada and New Delhi, it will surely choose the latter as the relationship is “too important,” the media reported on Saturday.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegations against New Delhi have led to a “greater danger” to Canada than India, he said.
For the US, India is far more important strategically than Canada, and Ottawa picking up a fight with New Delhi is like “an ant picking up a fight against an elephant.”
Citing the poor approval ratings of the Canadian PM at home, Rubin said Trudeau may not remain in office for long, and the US can rebuild the relationship after he is gone.
“I suspect the US doesn’t want to be painted in a corner to choose between two friends. But if we have to choose between two friends, increasingly we’re going to choose India on this matter, simply because Nijjar was a terrorist, and India is too important. Our relationship is too important,” Rubin was quoted as saying.
“Justin Trudeau probably isn’t long for the Canadian premiership, and then we can rebuild the relationship after he’s gone,” he added.
Asked whether the US could publicly intervene in the matter, Rubin said, “Frankly, there’s a much greater danger for Canada than India. If Canada wants to pick a fight, frankly, at this point, it’s like an ant picking a fight against an elephant, and the fact is India is the world’s largest democracy.
“It’s far more important strategically, arguably than Canada is, especially as concern grows with regard to China and other matters in the Indian Ocean basin, and in the Pacific.”
The Indo-Canadian bilateral ties nosedived this week after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau alleged India’s role behind the killing of a Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar, who fled India and became a Canadian citizen.
India rejected this claim as “absurd” and “motivated” and later suspended visa services for Canadian citizens indefinitely. Meanwhile, the two countries also expelled a senior diplomat each in a tit-for-tat move.
While making allegations against India in his Parliament on Monday, Trudeau failed to present any evidence. Repeatedly quizzed on the nature of the allegations, he only reiterated that there were “credible reasons” to believe that India was linked to the death of Nijjar.
Rubin slammed Trudeau saying that Nijjar, a Khalistani terrorist who may have been killed by his erstwhile comrades, is not a model to use for claiming “human rights”, as he was involved in multiple terror attacks.
“Justin Trudeau might want to make this a case of human rights. The fact of that matter is, that Nijjar isn’t a model one wants to use for human rights. Nijjar may have been involved in the assassination of a rival Sikh leader, just a year ago. At the same time, he has blood on his hands through multiple attacks. He entered Canada with a fraudulent passport. And the fact of the matter is this is no Mother Teresa we are talking about.”
Many in the US security community and even their counterparts in Canada understand that Trudeau has gone “too far.”
Asked if Trudeau converted a domestic political matter into a foreign policy issue, the former Pentagon official said the Canadian PM was very “short-sighted” and was acting only as a “politician.”
“Yes, I absolutely do think that that is the case. Justin Trudeau was playing domestic Canadian politics because as he struggles in his re-election campaign, many Sikh activists are in crucial swing districts. But again, this isn’t something unique to Canada…I think Justin Trudeau was acting as a politician. He was very short-sighted, and no one should trade their short-term political convenience for the long-term relationship with the world’s largest democracy,” he added.