Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau held extensive talks during their meet on February 23 on boosting ties in key areas such as trade and energy.
The two world leaders spoke about terrorism and extremism and the threat they posed. Justin Trudeau India visit emphasised on Canada’s support to pluralism and diversity. The sensitive topic of Khalistan and separatists was carefully avoided by both Prime Ministers.
Modi spoke about expanding India’s energy dialogue with Canada, which is being called an energy super power. Several agreements including those on nuclear science and Intellectual Property Rights was signed by the two countries, strengthening bilateral ties further.
Modi’s meet with Trudeau came after almost 5 days since the Canadian Prime Minister arrived in India with his family. Modi is allegedly said to have avoided Trudeau upon his arrival by not welcoming him to the country personally like he did for several other leaders. Instead he sent a minister of state to greet the Canadian Prime Minister. During the family’s visit to the iconic Taj Mahal in Agra, the state’s Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath did not meet the Canadian Prime Minister. The Trudeaus then visited Gujarat, Modi’s home state, where, yet again, they were not met by the Indian Prime Minister.
With Trudeau’s popularity declining in Canada post a cross country speaking tour, the government has been trying to leverage some of the Prime Minister’s popularity on the world stage. Having enjoyed favourable media coverage on a global scale in the past, the tour of India was seen as an opportunity to capitalise on his international popularity. However, a combination of errors including socializing with the wrong crowd led to the tour not yielding the desired results.
Trudeau was accused of having a soft stance on Sikh separatists. He has appointed several Canadian Sikhs who support the Khalistan movement to high ranking positions and also attended a Khalsa Day rally in 2017 where he was photographed next to a Khalistan flag. This association is allegedly the reason for the snub he faced by top officials in India.
The cameo appearance thrown in by the convicted Sikh extremist Jaspal Atwal at two events which was attended by Trudeau was also greatly criticized. He was mistakenly included in the guest list by a Liberal MP. Trudeau himself later condemned the presence of the extremist.
Another aspect that came under the scanner was the Trudeau family’s outfits. Although all done in good intention, Trudeau and his family’s Indian outfits were considered “too Indian” even for India.
On a positive note, the Canadian PM’s visit set the tone for enhanced economic activity between the two countries. Several Indian companies announced they would invest $250 million in Canada. Expanding Indo-Canadian trade will take time but is expected to result in a $1 billion two-way investment and create 6,000 jobs in Canada.
Trudeau’s five Cabinet minister who accompanied him on this trip visited business development hubs in India such as Bengaluru and Hyderabad.