New Delhi: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family, who arrived in India on Saturday, are on their first state visit. Trudeau is in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state – Gujarat, on Monday.
However, Modi was markedly absent from receiving his Canadian counterpart unlike the visits of other world leaders like Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2014, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in 2017 and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January, 2018. Modi also held a grand roadshow in Gujarat, welcoming the leaders and accompanying them during their stay in his home state.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is instead visiting Karnataka, which will go to polls in a few months.
Modi, whose foreign policy is marked by an emphasis on forming a personal bond with world leaders and who is known to have walked (or driven) the extra mile to personally receive them during their visit to India, gave his Canadian counterpart Trudeau a massive snub by sending a junior minister to receive him.
When Trudeau landed in New Delhi on Saturday night, he was welcomed by Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Gajendra S Shekhawat.
The scenario was not good at Agra in Uttar Pradesh on Sunday where Trudeau and his family went to see the iconic Taj Mahal either. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath was not available to receive the visiting prime minister.
It can be recalled that when Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Canada in 2016, Trudeau was absent from the airport to receive him. Sources justify that Modi did not exactly break any protocol by refusing to receive the Canadian PM at the Delhi airport this time around.
Narendra Modi who is active on Twitter also did not post any welcome tweet so far, a courtesy he normally reserves for all the visiting dignitaries after he became the Prime Minister of India in 2014.
Now all eyes are set on Trudeau’s visit to Punjab on Wednesday. However, there are no clear indications so far whether or not Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh will host the visiting prime minister in the holy city of Amritsar when the dignitaries will go to the Golden Temple.
CM Amarinder Singh’s annoyance with the Canadian government is apparent.
Amarinder had publicly refused to meet Canada’s first Sikh Defence Minister, Harjit Singh Sajjan, who was born in Punjab’s Hoshiarpur district, when he visited the state in April 2017. No minister or senior officer of the Punjab government either went to welcome Sajjan or even accompany him during the visit.
Amarinder had accused Sajjan and other ministers of Punjabi origin in the Trudeau government of links to radical elements demanding a separate Sikh state of Khalistan. Amarinder made it clear that he “would not meet any Khalistani sympathisers”.
The question that arises now is whether, a wary India, is downgrading Justin Trudeau because of his government’s support to pro-Khalistan elements among the Sikhs in the Canadian society. As things stand, India’s uneasiness is not unfounded.
When Justin Trudeau was elected Canada’s Prime Minister in 2015, he inducted four Indian faces – all Sikhs – in his multi-cultural Cabinet. In a first, the plum portfolio of Canada’s Defence Minister was given to a Sikh, Harjit Singh Sajjan.
It soon emerged that some of the Trudeau’s colleagues in the Canadian Cabinet allegedly had ties with Khalistan supporters. Trudeau himself attended a Khalsa Day event in Toronto where Khalistan flags and the portrait of former Khalistani militant leader Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were displayed.
The Ontario Assembly, dominated by Trudeau’s Liberal Party, passed a resolution in 2017 condemning the “genocide” of Sikhs in India in 1984.
Also in 2017, Canada’s High Commissioner to India had to apologise after India reacted sharply when a former CRPF officer was initially denied entry at Vancouver airport on the grounds that he had served a government that engaged in “terrorism, systematic or gross human rights violations, or genocide”.