It is difficult to believe that the foreign ministries of two given countries would finalise the tour of the real or nominal head of one without ensuring that he/she is properly received in the host country. But that is exactly what has happened in the case of Justin Trudeau’s visit to India. After being received at the airport six days ago by a minister whose name has little recall value, the Canadian Prime Minister went around meeting all kinds of inconsequential personalities and visiting all sorts of tourist spots — sometimes in fancy dresses — before his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi offered him an appointment. What is largely being seen as a snub to Canada for its subtle support to the now-dead Khalistani movement did not miss the attention of India’s social media users. Given the incredibility of the faux pas by Canada’s authorities, सिर्फ़ News desisted from commenting on the affair all this while. However, now that Modi has had a word with Trudeau, our observation ought to be shared. The stern warning issued to the guest — albeit without naming Canada — to not affect the unity and integrity of India has lent credence to the theory of the NDA government’s reactive foreign policy, which was so far appearing like a banter by the right wing on Twitter and Facebook. Not only has the fashion-conscious executive of the North American country humoured trouble-fomenting Canadian Sikhs on its soil time and again, but an acquitted terrorist was invited to an event to be solemnised by Trudeau in India. After refusing to budge on the Israel issue, the Modi government has thus made yet another paradigm shift in the country’s external affairs management.
The approach to Trudeau was long awaited. Indians have for ages been sore about the Ministry of External Affairs’ submissive attitude. On several occasions in contemporary history and in the recent past, our governments refused to seek an apology from delegates of Britain, when they came visiting, for the Jallianwala Bagh massacre. This let-go policy stands in stark contrast to neighbouring China’s, where so many decades after the Second World War, the Japanese still have to say sorry for the atrocities they had committed before that era, and only then receive Chinese hospitality during the bilateral programmes of those countries hosted by Beijing. Second, India is so awkwardly non-confrontationist that it avoids even domestic measures like the Union Budget to make a strong foreign policy statement. For example, when the world imposed sanctions on this country following the nuclear tests of Pokhran II, while France refused to jump on the bandwagon, the so-called nationalist government of the Bharatiya Janata Party neither punished the United States and its fellow travellers for their outrageously hypocritical stand with protectionist measures nor rewarded Paris with sops in imports for its considerate decision. It is for this record of being supine — coupled with being a helpless victim of terrorism for two decades — that India had come to be identified as a soft state.
Responding to the tweets of Indians scattered all over the world builds the impression of a caring state, but that cannot be the mainstay of the MEA, which the last four years seem to have reduced this government wing’s functioning to. Turning the international image of the BJP government positive has been an accomplishment primarily of the prime minister. Some high-profile rescue missions, notably of Muslim and Christian Indians stranded or held hostage abroad, have helped, too. The Sushma Swaraj-led ministry ought to now launch an initiative of awareness about India in foreign countries to educate them, chiefly the British and Canadians, in the fact that the image of this country projected by some nefarious elements in their territories is false. Simultaneously, the spine shown to Trudeau on our home turf must continue exhibiting itself in similar situations regardless of the protocols.