Gurpreet Singh: Stephen Harper celebrates the victory of his right-wing cousin, Narendra Modi

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There is nothing surprising about the excitement shown by the Prime Minister Stephen Harper over the victory of Narendra Modi in the Indian election.

A statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office congratulating Modi on May 16 read, “I look forward to working with Prime Minister-elect Modi and the new government of India to further strengthen our social and economic partnership to the benefit of our citizens.’’

In his statement, Harper goes on to commend more than 550 million Indian citizens who “peacefully exercised their right to vote”.

Though it's a normal practice of congratulating a democratically elected leader of a country by another democratically elected prime minister, in this case the PMO's statement raises many valid questions.

Firstly, both Harper and Modi share many things in common. The foremost commonality that binds them together is that both are right-wing conservatives.

Harper’s Conservatives and Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bhartiya Janata Party have right-wing agendas and both parties represent the corporate interests.

Secondly, the Conservative Party of Canada and the BJP think alike on issues, like war and terrorism. Both parties support increasing the defence budget and militarization, as well as tougher laws to deal with crime and terrorism.

Many Conservatives and the BJP emphasize social conservatism, opposing rights for same-sex couples. It should not surprise anyone that both promote faith-based politics, reaching political recruits through churches and temples.

Identity politics is also one of the core values of these two parties. Stung by Islamophobia, the two parties have never been popular with Muslims in Canada and India.

Whereas the Harper government has been talking tough against Islamist extremism and Palestine, Modi is accused of allowing an anti-Muslim pogrom in the Indian state of Gujarat back in 2002. While chief minister of Gujarat, he allegedly gave free hand to the Hindu mobs to target Muslims following the burning of a train killing 59 Hindu passengers. The incident was blamed on Muslim fundamentalists.

Whereas the Conservatives have toughened anti-immigration laws, the BJP has been talking tough against Bangladeshi Muslim migrants settled in India.

In that sense the congratulatory note of Harper is not just a formality or a gesture of goodwill. It’s more than that. Harper finds in Modi a strong ideological ally in the South Asian region.

Notably, his statement is silent about Gujarat violence, which was the reason for the U.S. not to give visa to Modi in the past. It's just not possible that Harper is not aware of this issue. After all, the statement mentions values, such as human rights and the law: “The unprecedented scale of these elections emphasizes both the vitality and strength of India’s democracy. Canada is proud to share with India the values of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

So how can one believe that Harper or his spin doctors just missed it? Harper has ignored the matter purposely.

If Harper really cares for democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, he could have asked Modi to assure full justice to the victims of Gujarat violence and punishment to the mass murderers as a precondition to strengthen good relations with India. But his approach is selective and flawed.

Otherwise, why he did not accept the electoral victory of Hamas in the Palestinian assembly election of 2006? The Harper government had categorically refused to acknowledge the democratically elected government of Hamas just because Israelis treat Hamas as a terrorist group.

One may disagree with Hamas for promoting violence but doesn’t that mean that Modi and the BJP also owe some answers to the world for promoting religious hatred? If Harper is impressed by more than 550 million citizens of India for exercising their right to vote, how can he be disrespectful to those who exercised a similar right in Palestine?

This only reflects the doublespeak of the Harper government. But what can one expect from a government which claims to be human-rights leader internationally, but is indifferent toward its commitment to human rights at home?

The Harper government continues to run away from its responsibility to order a national inquiry into the missing and murdered aboriginal women in Canada, but when it came to the abduction of over 200 school girls in Nigeria by the Islamic extremists, it readily offered all its support to the international campaign seeking their release.

Gurpreet Singh is a Georgia Straight contributor, and the host of a program on Radio India. He's working on a book tentatively titled Canada's 9/11: Lessons from the Air India BombingsHe has a Facebook page called We Are All Untouchables!!! 

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Mark

May 18, 2014 at 11:06am

Harper uses extortion, threats and bribes to peddle his dirtiest oil on earth tar sands..which has devastated once pristine Alberta ecosystems and wilderness and their native inhabitants..along with many other of his cronies' projects which harm environments worldwide. He has sabotaged climate talks, he blocks laws for animal cruelty and endangered species protection, he promotes horrific wildlife massacre bloodbaths, such as the harp seal pup bloodbaths (ignoring the entire world which has banned and boycotted Canada for that atrocity) and many other less publicized ones like elk massacres and endangered polar bear trophy hunts. he indulges in massive land and air pollution across Canada and clearcutting of old growth. Along with his crushing of laws upholding human rights, and his arms peddlng and warmongering, Harper has shown he's simply a threat to the public and must be removed from public office.

400 ppm

May 18, 2014 at 1:41pm

@ Mark

an it's exactly what The People--the world over--want.

Neeta

May 18, 2014 at 11:05pm

Hah Hah, blame it on Modi. Pathetic!!

Eric

May 19, 2014 at 10:56am

As much as I despise the Harper government and agree with many of the criticisms made here against it I think the author is doing a bit of disservice to those opposing the BJP. The BJP brand of Hindu Nationalism goes well beyond mere conservatism to embrace many key elements of fascism including modeling themselves partially on Mussolini's black shirts. The massacre of more than 2000 men, women and children in Gujarat in an operation that was planned for months in advance with the collusion of senior political figures and security forces, including Modi himself, does not find an equivalent in the Harper government. To read the human rights report on this is to be permanently psychically scarred by the barbarity of it all. Women were raped and mutilated in front of their families. Pregnant women had the children cut from their bellies and murdered. The police and security forces stood by and did nothing and in fact provided logistical support for the operation. It is important to recognize the difference, I think, if we want to be able to fight back.

Realist

May 19, 2014 at 11:44am

Sometimes an election is just an election. Harper has the opposing herds in a tizzy to outdo themselves with absurdities, this story and the comment from "mark" are perfect examples. Harper's own herd will vote for him next time around, just as the Dip & Lib herds will vote for them. The people who will decide the next federal election are those who haven't pledged fealty to any herd: those are he he votes that matter and those votes aren't going to be swayed by the chicken little claims of opposing herds. If you believe any party is not corrupt, of you believe any politician isn't in it for her/himself, if you believe your "ism" will mark the birth of a "just," or "fair" or whatever you are part of the problem.

8 11 Rating: -3

blah

May 19, 2014 at 2:32pm

While acknowledging that "it's a normal practice of congratulating a democratically elected leader", the author of this article just can't resist his paranoia and prejudices to badmouth Harper. Harper is certainly no saint, but the lefties are just as bad with their unreasonable bullsh*t comments like those in this article. No wonder the left has no credibility.

blahh

May 19, 2014 at 3:20pm

And the right has credibility?

FirstBornCandianItalianHungarian

May 19, 2014 at 6:11pm

HARPER HAS TO GO!!!

Lohit

May 20, 2014 at 1:23am

Gurpreet Singh, get well soon. We in India are not fools, we know what's best for our nation.

Alan Layton

May 20, 2014 at 12:28pm

Not a Harper fan but I don't remember Harper's alleged Islamiphobia resulting in state-instituted pogrom against the Muslim community in Canada. Comparing Harper, even at his most right-wing, to any of the parties in India seems silly. Apples and Oranges. You might want to dial back on the right-wing hysteria.

7 10 Rating: -3
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