Barely three days in India and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long visit has got mired in controversy. No other state head in recent times would have received as royal a snub as Justin Trudeau.
The short shrift given to the Justin Trudeau by India may have to do with the Canadian premiere’s support to Khalistan separatists in his country and his refusal earlier to meet Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh.
The Khalistani separatist movement is one of the most sensitive issues in India. Following the cold shoulder, Justin Trudeau may be forced to give a rethink on the not-so-tacit support to the Khalistani separatists back in Canada.
Justin Trudeau has received a number of snubs from the top political establishment in the last three days.
Leave aside Prime Minister Narendra Modi breaking the protocol and receiving him, not even a cabinet minister went to airport to welcome him.
Minister of State for Agriculture and Farmer’s Welfare Gajendra Singh Shekhawat received Justin Trudeau, his wife and their three children at the airport on February 17.
In contrast, Prime Minister Modi had broken the protocol and reached the airport to personally receive the then US president Barack Obama in January 2015, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan in January 2017 and Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on January 14.
This contrast was noticed by Canadian citizens.
A Canadian author and syndicated columnist for the Toronto Sun Candice Malcolm tweeted to taunt Justin Trudeau’s policy on Khalistani separatism and terrorism.
Just last month, PM Modi had met Justin Trudeau at the World Economic Summit in Davos and expressed his delight at welcoming his Canadian counterpart in Delhi.
However, Justin Trudeau seems to have been meted out a different treatment on his visit to Delhi.
Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj tweeted welcoming Justin Trudeau in the last three days. On the contrary, when Netanyahu had come calling to India, the PMO had tweeted photographs of Modi welcoming the Israeli PM at the airport.
Justin Trudeau was also cold-shouldered by Uttar Pradesh Yogi Adityanath when the former visited Agra to see the Taj Mahal on February 18. The UP chief minister did not accompany him to the mausoleum. Yogi had personally conducted Netanyahu during the latter’s Agra tour last month.
In the latest snub, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not give company to Justin Trudeau in Gujarat today. Otherwise, Modi had received several world leaders such as Netanyahu, Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Chinese President Xi Jinping in his home state.
TRUDEAU AND KHALISTAN SEPARATISM
Behind these royal snubs by India may be the perception in India that Justin Trudeau is sympathetic towards Khalistani separatism and his previous plan not to meet Capt Amarinder Singh.
Trudeau and his government do not denounce Khalistani radicals. As a mark of protest, Capt Amarinder Singh had last year refused to meet visiting Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan.
Capt Amarinder Singh alleged that Sajjan and several other members of the Trudeau cabinet, such as Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, were Khalistani sympathisers.
Justin Trudeau also attends rallies featuring Khalistani flags and insignia and where pro-Khalistan slogans are shouted.
Both Sajjan and Sohi are accompanying Justin Trudeau to India.
Amidst the Canadian PM’s visit, the Indian polity seems to be divided over the cold shoulder to him.
Though Congress’ Capt Amarinder Singh is cut up with Justin Trudeau and his cabinet ministers over terrorism, his party’s social media and digital communications in charge Divya Spandana alias Ramya has pledged her support to the Canadian PM.
She tweeted backing Justin Trudeau and went to the extent of saying that she would give him a hug.
However, Congress spokesperson Priyanka Chaturvedi aired the party’s official position. Talking to India Today, she said, “Wishing PM Justin Trudeau a successful maiden visit to India at the same time will also hope that he will understand and share our concerns vis-a-vis Punjab separatists and the growing demand for Khalistan. It has been a hard fought peace for us and we are committed to ensuring that it is not endangered.”
In a tweet, she said the snub was not on PM Justin Trudeau. “The state of Punjab has borne the brunt of terror related violence, it is only fair the elected CM (Capt Amarinder Singh) gets to share his concerns with you. However, wish you a good family trip to India,” she said.
The snub seems to have worked. Justin Trudeau will be meeting Capt Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on February 21. India will not just hope that Trudeau speaks against Khalistan separatism during his ongoing trip but also acts upon it after returning to Canada.