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SHAME ON INDIA: India Has Not Only Snubbed PM Justin Trudeau But Canada Too

Normally, following a visit by the leader of one country to another, relations between the two countries improve. However after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India, the relations between the two countries seem to have soured. While Canada-India relations may have taken a dive, Trudeau’s stock back home has risen.

 

India had an opportunity to improve bilateral relations, but they have soured even further. Canada-India have not enjoyed the most amicable relations ever since Canada accused India of procuring material for peaceful nuclear use but then reneging on the agreement, and convert it to make a nuclear bomb.

 

In the current scenario, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was not there to welcome Prime Minister Trudeau and his six cabinet ministers, in Delhi. Modi will meet Trudeau on the last day of the week-long visit. Is this a snub? CNN reported, “Justin Trudeau ‘snubbed’ by Indian government on official trip” but Times of India ran a story titled “Govt. Denies it has snubbed Trudeau over Khalistan” and Washington Post Delhi correspondent’s story asks,“Is India’s government ‘snubbing’ Canada’s Justin Trudeau?”

 

The Trudeau visit was hijacked by the Khalistan issue – desire of dissatisfied Sikhs to carve an independent state out of present day India, with borders similar to existing state of Punjab, to be called Khalistan.

 

The real issue is denial of visitor visa for current Punjab State Chief Minister, Capt. Amarinder Singh, to Canada in April 2016, just before their state elections. Singh was in opposition then and was suspected of coming to Canada for fund-raising for his election campaign. He sees current Canadian-Sikh cabinet ministers as having had a role in the denial of the visitor visa. Canada refused citing laws against Canadians funding foreign political campaigns. In an October 2016 letter to Prime Minister Trudeau, Singh said he felt a “gag order” had been issued against him and sought to know the grounds on which permission to visit Canada had been denied to him. Capt. Singh was advised of Canadian government policy which “will not allow foreign governments to conduct election campaigns in Canada or establish foreign political parties and movements in Canada.” Singh now turned the refusal into a personal vendetta against Trudeau and his ministers and into a campaign against Khalistan.  His actions have done enormous damage to bilateral relations between the two countries. However Trudeau has benefitted from this as many Sikhs in Canada did not like Singh’s antics – first refusing to meet Trudeau or any of his Ministers and then conceding to meet them all. Indian government officials had the audacity to lecture Trudeau about harbouring Khalistan sympathizers in his cabinet. Is India wanting now to decide, who sits at the Canadian cabinet table?

 

Indian officials accuse Canada of harbouring citizens sympathetic to Khalistan. Understandably, Indian government officials are bothered by this and have raised it with every visiting senior Canadian official over last three decades. Little do the Indians realize that Canadians have freedom to express support for an independent Scotland, Catalonia, a united Ireland and even for Quebec to secede from Canada, as long as no violence is advocated!

 

Many Sikhs in Canada – and quite a few recently have come as refugees, have no regard for Indian government. Hundreds of innocent Sikh worshippers were killed in 1984 when Indian Army attacked Sikhs’ holy place, the Golden Temple on a religious celebration day. In retaliation Sikh bodyguards killed Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, which in turn resulted in killing of thousands of innocent Sikhs, including children and women, in the capital New Delhi and across the country. Ontario Legislative Assembly last year passed a motion calling these killing of Sikhs in India in 1984, a genocide!

 

The recent election of Jagmeet Singh, of Sikh faith, as NDP leader, is another factor weighing on the minds of Liberal strategists as they eye the next federal election. They see the NDP and Jagmeet siphoning away votes from the Liberals, especially in closely contested urban ridings. Some are wondering, whether Trudeau’s trip was to prove that he is more of a “Sikh” than Jagmeet!

 

Trudeau-Modi meeting, on the last day of Trudeau’s week-long visit, will try to patch up things but the damage to Canada-India relations is done. Trudeau, however, should be pleased with the positive response back in Canada to his India trip.

 

 

 

 

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