In today’s day and age, much of how our generation of young Indians ingests news about Prime Ministers and other government figures is through our three favourite apps – Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Certainly, we can point to our own Shashi Tharoor as an example of this growing phenomenon – from social media quizzes about his use of lavish words, to his tweets going viral, we have come to formulate an image of such politicians on means as superficial as social media. The same holds true for Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, a social media star, who is currently touring India with his wife and three children in tow, an event that has garnered much attention throughout the nation.
The Prime Minister’s Instagram account is laden with extravagant and colourful photographs of him and his family visiting the Taj Mahal, Sabarmati Ashram, and the Golden Temple. But while it is so easy to fall in love with him through the pictures he stages in front of many of our most celebrated monuments, Indians should be asking themselves why he feels it is necessary to wear our traditional garb while touring our homeland? Is it because he wants to be perceived as tolerant and welcoming? For some reason, this over-the-top cultural embrace seems a little disingenuous, and perhaps a distraction from many of his problematic moves during his tenure in office.
Trudeau’s track record on issues that should be meaningful to many Indian liberals has been quite concerning. Notably, the Canadian Prime Minister approved a multi-billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia in 2016 that lead to tremendous and justifiable outrage. Claims have even pointed to the fact that the Saudi Arabian government is using said Canadian military equipment to oppress and violate the rights of its very own citizens. This was a missed opportunity by Trudeau to stand by minorities in the wake of a worldwide trend of government overreach.
The Trudeau camp has also approved numerous pipeline deals, including a controversial Kinder Morgan Pipeline which sources its oil from Canada’s biodiverse Pacific Coast, threatening the environment through rising carbon emissions. These moves by the Prime Minister also directly contradict his election promise of ensuring a sustainable and environmentally conscious Canadian future. Likewise, he even supported United States President Donald Trump’s motion to move forward with the Keystone XL pipeline, an initiative that would only create 35 new, permanent jobs but cause lasting damage to the environment.
Surely, his lack of concern for our planet may not affect India directly, but instead should help to portray a more holistic view of Trudeau. His approval of such projects proves that his interests lie more in the economy than in ethics, and that his overall aim is really just to capitalize off of our growing markets. With our country’s economic liberalisation having occurred less than 30 years ago, what does our desire to so closely partner and increase business with someone like Trudeau say about our ethical views of capitalism and neoliberalism?
Also important to note is our generation’s obsession and focus on the world of social media, often with little regard to diving into issues in-depth. I would challenge every reader to ask themselves how many times they have actually heard Mr Trudeau give a speech in a government setting or to constituents to assess his strength as a fair and just leader. Our over-reliance on staged photographs and marketing campaigns to assess whether or not we believe someone is good for our nation is highly problematic, in that, there is so much more than meets the eye – or in this case, the mobile phone.