Justin Trudeau and a new low in Indo-Canadian relationship
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Issue Net Edition | Date : 20 Feb , 2018

The Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has arrived on 17th Feb 2018 on a weeklong visit to India alongwith his family and three ministers of Indian origin; Navdeep Bains, Harjit Singh Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi included in his entourage. More than a dozen of Indian Canadian MPs are expected to join Trudeau in India during this trip. The political agenda of this visit is clear and loud. It is an exercise to outreach to an estimated 1.4 million people of Indian origin settled in Canada. The Indian community in Canada makes up for a significant vote bank and some have made it to Justin Trudeau’s cabinet as well. India is Canada’s second-largest source of immigrants and it has the potential of boosting Trudeau’s prospects for re-election.

But for some obvious reasons Indian Government does not seem to be too impressed with the Canadian Prime Minister- probably the only “tattooed” head of government of a country. He was received by a Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh and Indian Ambassador to Canada Vikas Swarup at Delhi Airport. This cold reception can be judged in the backdrop of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi going at airport to receive practically every second visiting world leader including those of smaller Arab countries in recent times. Even at Agra, where Justin Trudeau went to see Taj Mahal with his wife and children, he was not welcomed by the Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath and the honors of doing the protocol was left to the district magistrate whereas Yogi Adityanath was present to receive Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during his visit to Agra.

The 46 year old Justin Trudeau is known to be hopelessly neoliberal and has a misplaced notion of greatness that has found him rubbing on the wrong side of many world leaders. He went over to receive Syrian refugees at the airport and would like the word ‘mankind’ be replaced with ‘people kind’ just to be little more popular with feminists. His shirtless photographs and ‘bhangra’ dance are doing rounds on the social media. He is known to have spoken in support of practically every radical and secessionist groups world over. Indian Government does appreciate his pandering to pro-Khalistan elements in Canada. His tenure in Canada has seen a new surge of extremists organising multiple events across the country to rally support for the movement and many pro-Khalistan groups in Canada propose to hold referendum on Punjab liberation in the year 2020.

Earlier in July 2016, Indian Government had raised the issue with Canada after Justin Trudeau appeared in a Nagar Kirtan event in Toronto that featured Khalistani flags and posters of extremist leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale. On 30th April 2016, he had addressed a parade on ‘Khalsa Day’ which included events glorifying Sikh militant leaders. He once boasted to have more Sikhs in his ministry than of Narendra Modi. Three members of Trudeau’s cabinet – Minister of National Defence Harjit Singh Sajjan, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains and Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi – have links with the separatist movement.

Last year in April, Capt Amrinder Singh, Chief Minister of Punjab had refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan when the later had come on an official visit to India and gone to his native place in Punjab. Justin Trudeau’s party had also passed a resolution on 6th April 2017 against India to recognise the anti-Sikh riots of November 1984 as a genocide. India had condemned the move, calling it a “misguided motion based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos and judicial process”.

There are 16 MPs of Sikh origin elected in the federal elections of Canada in 2015 injecting a new life to the moribund separatist movement in Punjab. North American Gurudwaras are now fuelling the demands for “liberating Punjab from Indian domination.” There are reports of Khalistanis forcibly preventing Indian representatives and officials from entering Gurudwaras in Canada.

However, there is more to the ties between India and Canada and beyond Khalistan. India and Canada have many areas in which they can benefit from mutual cooperation. Trade, job creation, investment sector are just some of those areas. Canadian investment in India has also exceeded by $15 billion. While there are about 400 active Canadian companies in India, many more have serious plans of investing in India. An MoU was signed last year between the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Indo Canadian Business Chamber (ICBC) in order to further enhance bilateral co-operation to promote and foster trade and multilateral relations. There is a possibility of various aspects of uranium and nuclear energy collaboration between the two countries. There is a proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) under negotiation between these two countries. Unfortunately, for all the above the current itinerary of Justin Trudeau has only half a day allotted for bilateral negotiations with his Indian counterpart.

But this would be possible only when the bilateral relations are not guided by the prospects of next election back home. Canada’s official line is that it supports an unified India, will not support any forms of extremism but will allow Indian Canadians to speak out in favour of a separate Sikh state if they wish. Justin Trudeau has never pledged any support to Khalistan publicly but on many occasions he has been seen getting cozy with those Sikhs who are hardliners and openly back Khalistan. The time has come for this maverick Candian Prime Minister to look at the relations with India as a matured statesman which would be in the interest of both the countries and not be too much obsessed with his Indian vote bank in Canada.

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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Rakesh Kr Sinha

Former DIG and is associate member of Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA). Presently Special Advisor to the Chief Minister, Govt of NCT of Delhi.

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3 thoughts on “Justin Trudeau and a new low in Indo-Canadian relationship

  1. There is a need to send a message to Canada. However, there is no need to humiliate a visiting head of state. Considering the enmity with China and Pak, there is no need to invite the heads of government/state in the first place, much less rolling the red carpet.

  2. I think it is certainly a matter of great concern because it goes to the core of India’s unity and integrity and that is an issue that needs to be sorted out between the two countries,
    Now to show your displeasure political snub is the most used tool in world politics used by China to America.
    Also, this political snub will be a good reminder for a Trudeau’ Govt. to take India’s stance seriously.

    An extreme example can be of China’s reaction as they decided to stop supporting academic exchanges with the University of California, San Diego as they invited Dalai Lama for public speaking (September 26, 2017).

    So, this shows when the issue is raised on the unity of a country; appropriate political tool should be used to make your stance extremely clear.

  3. Yet again a brilliant article Sir, but I still fail to understand why the atithi devo bhav disappear from the modi agenda in this case, the way pakistan & china prime ministers were received and respected , the direct rivals of our country with whom we have border disputes as well. Its slightly difficult to believe that our international prime minister is handling the president of Canada in such a way. I somehow have a feeling that there is something beyond khalistan & sikh issue .. but whatever it is the way this government has handled this situation does not represent the true spirit of india, such moments have deep impacts and go through generations ..

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