Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, along with his wife and three children, landed in New Delhi on a weeklong visit on Saturday. His reception by his hosts has been distinctly cold. His government’s support to Khalistani groups, particularly from his two Sikh ministers, has cast a shadow on Trudeau’s India visit.
Trudeau and his family have visited Agra and Ahmedabad since Saturday. Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat chief ministers and administrations had accorded red carpet welcomes to Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu during their respective visits in recent months. But the warmth was missing during Trudeau’s visit to the two states.
Neither Prime Minister Narendra Modi nor External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj have tweeted any welcome message for Trudeau, while Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat was sent to receive him at the Delhi airport when he landed on Saturday. The Ministry of External Affairs is yet to hold its customary curtain raiser briefing for the media on Trudeau’s visit.
What’s more, the Congress, which has not seen see eye to eye on with the Modi government and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on most issues in recent months, has supported the Centre for its subdued reception of the Canadian PM.
On Monday, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said the Canadian PM was an honoured guest, but there was also the issue of sensitivities in Punjab. He said that “between 1980 and 1995 thousands of innocent people lost their lives in a wave of terror and those or some of those who are responsible for perpetrating that terror still find shelter in the country which he (Trudeau) has the honour of leading.” Tewari is a victim of the militancy. V N Tewari, his father, was killed by Sikh militants in 1984.
On the question of Trudeau reportedly refusing to meet Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, Tewari termed the decision “most unfortunate” that the Canadian PM has taken a conscious decision not to talk to the elected CM of Punjab.
However, a rapproachment has been reached. A little after Tewari's comments, the Punjab CM tweeted on Monday evening: "Look forward to meeting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday. I'm hopeful that this meeting will help strengthen the close Indo-Canadian business ties as well as the deep-rooted people-to-people relations between our two countries.”
Look forward to meeting Canadian Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday. I’m hopeful that this meeting will help strengthen the close Indo-Canadian business ties as well as the deep-rooted people-to-people relations between our two countries.— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) February 19, 2018
Officials said Trudeau will have a one-on-one meeting with the Punjab CM. Trudea will meet Amarinder Singh after a visit to the Golden Temple. The Punjab CM had refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan during the latter's visit to Punjab last year. Amarinder Singh had accused Sajjan of being a "Khalistani sympathiser".
In 2016, when Amarinder Singh was the Punjab Congress chief, he had written a strongly-worded letter to the Canadian prime minister, lodging a protest on being denied permission for interaction with Punjabi NRIs in Canada in the run-up to the Punjab Assembly polls. Amarinder Singh had called it a "gag order".
Shiromani Akali Dal chief, and former deputy CM of Punjab, Sukhbir Singh Badal is expected to welcome the Canadian PM at the Golden Temple. On Monday, Trudea was in Gujarat, and had a meeting with CM Vijay Rupani.