Even before the ongoing India-Canada diplomatic standoff happened, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, were a study in contrasts last month as political leaders of two leading economies and democracies of the world.
For starters, Prime Minister Modi was the picture of confidence, charm, positivity and compassion as he made India shine at the impressively organised and perfectly concluded G20 Summit in New Delhi. On the other hand, Trudeau’s trip to the Summit was fraught with drama surrounding his accommodation and airplane, his conspicuous absence from some G20 events, such as President Draupadi Murmu’s reception dinner for G20 leaders and guests, not to mention his general out-of-sorts demeanour during his interaction with Prime Minister Modi.
A couple of the above things may be attributed to the reported telling-off he got on the sidelines of the Summit from Prime Minister Modi over the Khalistan issue and the investigation into the killing of a pro-Khalistan leader Hardeep Singh Nijjar – but what happened after Trudeau returned home was, of course, entirely of his own making.
In what was practically unheard of in global diplomacy among democratic nations, Trudeau accused the Indian government – in his home country’s parliament – of being involved in the murder of Nijjar. He neither provided any evidence then, nor has he done so until now, to substantiate his claims. Soon after Trudeau’s parliamentary claims against India, his government breached another diplomatic protocol by expelling senior Indian diplomat Pawan Kumar Rai, identifying him as the head of the Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s foreign intelligence agency, in Canada.
While India gave more than a befitting response to that, it did so with textbook diplomacy. Despite the provocation from Trudeau, Prime Minister Modi has not made a single public statement in response to his charges. Washington’s approach to the issue was also mature and measured, quite along the lines of New Delhi. This was evident from the statement released after the bilateral meeting between External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and US Secretary of State Anthony Blinker, which made no mention of the Canada issue – although they admittedly discussed it in private.
It is important to note that Trudeau’s popularity in his own country has been on a downward spiral for quite some time. In a survey in July this year, Canadians voted him as the worst Prime Minister they have had in the past 50 years. This preceded his unsubstantiated charges that sent India-Canada ties into a tailspin last month and also the apology he issued a few days later after being condemned globally for mistakenly honouring a Nazi veteran in the Canadian parliament. A recent Ipsos poll, conducted by Global News, a Canadian media platform, showed that 40 percent of Canadians would prefer to see his main political rival Pierre Polivierre as their next Prime Minister.
As for Prime Minister Modi, he continues to be voted the world’s most popular global leader, by a good margin. As per a recent survey released by Morning Consult, a leading US-based consultancy firm, his approval rating stood at an awe-inspiring 76 percent, 12 percentage points higher than second-ranked Swiss president Alain Berset, while Trudeau languished at 37 percent. Late last month, results from an Ipsos IndiaBus poll in India showed that Prime Minister Modi’s approval rating among urban Indians has risen to 65 percent, from 60 percent in December last year.
As they say, numbers do not lie. The contrast between Modi and Trudeau is telling in more ways than one.