Is the Canadian PM being cold-shouldered in India?

Feb 20, 2018

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s first official visit to India has not been the headline-grabbing love fest he must be accustomed to on his overseas trips.

Despite plenty of photo opportunities, including at the Taj Mahal, Mr Trudeau and his family’s tour has been largely ignored by senior members of the Indian government so far.

When he arrived in the capital, Delhi, he was met at the airport by a junior minister in what many interpreted to be a “snub”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has, on many occasions, personally received visiting government leaders. He also famously hugs his foreign counterparts.

Most recently Mr Modi extended the courtesy – both the personal reception and the hug – to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who visited in January.

But Mr Modi has not yet met the Canadian prime minister, despite him being in India for two days.

He was also absent when Mr Trudeau visited his home state of Gujarat on Monday.

And it’s not just the prime minister.

When Mr Trudeau visited the Taj Mahal on Sunday, some media reports pointed to the fact that the chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, where the monument is located, did not go to greet the visiting premier.

The pictures, headlines and social media frenzy that usually accompany Mr Trudeau’s overseas travels have also been largely missing.

So is India really cold shouldering Justin Trudeau? And if so, why?

“Yes, this is a major snub. The fact that a junior minister was sent to receive Mr Trudeau and his family is most definitely a snub,” columnist and economist Vivek Dehejia told the BBC.

Mr Dehejia said the reason for Mr Trudeau’s lukewarm reception could well be that several members of his government were closely allied with a Sikh independence movement – the Khalistan movement – which seeks to create a separate independent Sikh homeland in the Sikh-dominated northern state of Punjab.

Canadian authorities have also linked Sikh separatist militants to Canada’s 1985 Air India bombing, which killed 329 people.

“His Liberal party relies heavily on the Sikh-Canadian vote bank and some of the Sikh members of his government are fellow travellers with the Khalistanis,” said Mr Dehejia.

Mr Trudeau counts four Sikh-Canadians in his cabinet.

If this were the case, it would not be the first time that Khalistan has soured relations between officials from the two countries.


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