Did Modi government snub Canadian PM?

New Delhi, India – Feb 21, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s India trip that began on Saturday has been making the headlines in India for the wrong reasons.

In the past four days of his first India trip as prime minister, Trudeau has travelled to the iconic Taj Mahal, nearly 200km from the capital, New Delhi and Gujarat, home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, and Mumbai, but no senior government minister has met him so far.

A junior Indian minister greeted the Canadian prime minister when he landed in New Delhi accompanied by his wife and three children.

Modi has broken protocols in the past to receive guests personally, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in January.

But the Indian prime minister, who famously hugs his guests, has not even tweeted welcoming Trudeau in a move being seen as a “snub” to the Canadian leader.

Sections of the Indian media praised Modi for his “firmness” and for being “impressively tough”.

The right-wing ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), however, denies any disrespect to the visiting leader.

any kind of snub. India values its relationship with Canada highly,” Seshadri Chari, member of the National Executive of the BJP told Al Jazeera.

Modi is scheduled to meet Trudeau on Friday.

Sikh separatist movement

Indian officials have accused the Trudeau government of backing Sikh separatist movement known as the Khalistani movement that seeks an independent Sikh homeland in the Indian state of Punjab.

“Over the years, the Canadian political establishment, across the spectrum (whether it is the NDP, Conservatives or Liberals) has been mollycoddling Khalistani elements. Under the Trudeau government, this has increased. He had himself appeared on a Khalistani platform in Toronto in April last year,” Vishnu Prakash, former Indian envoy to Canada, told Indian news site The Print on Monday.

India has trouble accepting criticism from minority groups… As a democracy, India must realise that human rights are critical and cannot be dismissed by trying to malign or marginalise those seeking justice


Prakash, however, denied that Trudeau was being cold-shouldered, adding that “every courtesy has been extended to him”.

Balpreet Singh Boparai from the World Sikh Organisation – a non-profit outfit that claims to be working to promote and protect the interests of Canadian Sikhs – said the “snub reveals India’s insecurity with minority rights”.

“The cold reception given to Prime Minister Trudeau has been noted in Canada,” Boparai, who is based in Newmarket, Ontario, told Al Jazeera.

“Prime Minister Trudeau has been unapologetic about the Sikhs in his cabinet, once also joking that he has more Sikhs in his cabinet than Modi. It is clear that there is an insecurity about this among some in the Indian government and media who see Sikhs in positions of leadership as being inherently a threat to India. This is despite the fact that three of the four Sikh cabinet ministers have been raised in Canada and have never expressed any anti-India sentiments,” he added.

Canada boasts 17 Sikh members of parliament. Sikhs account for roughly 1.4 percent of Canada’s population of 36 million.

‘The spectre of Sikh separatism’

Amarinder Singh, the top elected official in Punjab – a state with majority Sikh population – had earlier alleged that Canada’s Sikh communities are a “hotbed of separatists”.

In April last year, Singh had said that Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, who is also accompanying Trudeau on this trip, was a Khalistani sympathiser.

Former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984 over the Indian army’s storming of the holiest Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple, to crush the separatist movement.

I don’t think this is any kind of snub. India values its relationship with Canada highly


More than 3,000 people were killed in anti-Sikh riots following Gandhi’s death.

Members of Sikh community in Canada were convicted for the 1985 bombing of an Air India flight, which killed 329 people.

Punjab leader Amarinder Singh is scheduled to meet Trudeau on Wednesday in Amritsar, home to the Golden Temple, although it is yet unclear whether the members of his cabinet will be part of the talks.

The spectre of Sikh separatism and alleged Canadian state support hangs heavy over the trip that is meant to strengthen business and defence ties between the two countries.


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