NEW DELHI — Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau Feb. 23 with a hug, one day after embarrassed Canadian diplomats had to revoke a party invitation for a man convicted of attempting to kill an Indian politician.
The invitation was the latest blunder in Trudeau’s eight-day visit, which has included everything from criticism of his colorful wardrobe to questions about whether his government is sufficiently critical of Sikh extremists.
Jaspal Atwal, a Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had been invited by a Canadian member of Parliament to a Feb. 22 evening party for Trudeau at Canada’s High Commission in New Delhi.
Atwal was convicted of trying to kill an Indian Cabinet minister during a 1986 visit to Canada. The minister was shot but survived. Atwal was imprisoned, and became a businessman after his release.
Canada quickly withdrew the invitation once it was discovered, with Trudeau telling reporters: “Obviously we take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation.”
Earlier in the week, Atwal attended a Mumbai reception at which he was photographed with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.
Modi still welcomed Trudeau on Feb. 23 with his signature bear hug, smiling at his wife and their three children, who also attended the formal outdoor ceremony.
In a Feb. 22 night tweet, Modi said he looked forward to meeting Trudeau and his family, adding, “I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries.”
But it hasn’t been an easy trip for Trudeau in many ways.
Canada’s Globe and Mail newspaper flayed the Trudeau government for the invitation, calling it “a spectacular gaffe that exacerbated an already troubled weeklong excursion.”
Trudeau has been ridiculed in India on social media for his family’s seemingly endless wardrobe changes, with the photogenic group often appearing in matching and colorful Indian clothing, and has faced repeated insistence that he denounce Sikh extremism.
“Sikh radicalism is the main issue,” the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest newspapers, said in an editorial earlier this week. “Justin Trudeau should allay India’s concerns on terrorism.”
Canada has a small but politically potent Sikh population, some of whom support a breakaway Sikh state, known as Khalistan, inside India. The Indian media often describe Trudeau’s government as being soft on the Khalistan issue.
Trudeau insisted that he’d told Indian politicians that was not true. “I was pleased to be able to make very, very clear that Canada supports one united India,” he said after one meeting.
Later Feb. 23, the two countries signed agreements for cooperation in security, trade and higher education, including making it easier for exchanges of students and teachers. Canada is one of the most sought-after destinations by Indians for their studies.
IANS adds: India and Canada Feb. 23 resolved to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all forms and manifestations and agreed that no country should allow its territory to be used for such activities.
The two countries also signed a framework for cooperation in which they named Sikh extremist groups Babbar Khalsa International and International Sikh Youth Federation along with terror groups such as Al Qaeda, the Islamic State, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed and committed themselves to work together to neutralize their threats.
After one-on-one and delegation-level talks and with Trudeau by his side, Prime Minister Modi said there is no place for misuse of religion for political and divisive purposes.
"Terrorism and extremism are threats to our democratic and pluralistic societies," Modi told the media along with Trudeau.
"It is very important for us to come together to fight these forces," he said. "There should be no space for those who misuse religion for political purposes and divisive politics."
In a joint statement issued after the talks, the two countries pledged to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations while declaring that no country should allow its territory to be used for terrorist and violent extremist activities.
Modi and Trudeau also welcomed the agreement on a bilateral Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism that was signed between the two countries.
The Framework recognized the urgent imperative to disrupt recruitment, terrorist movements and the flow of foreign terrorist fighters, address the threat posed by cross-border and state-sponsored terrorism, stop sources of terrorist financing, dismantle terrorist infrastructure and prevent supply of arms to terrorists and counter violent extremism and radicalization to violence.
Modi said that during the talks, both sides also discussed means to further deepen economic relations.
"We have asked our negotiators to double their efforts to finalize the Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement," he said.
Bilateral trade between India and Canada stood at a C$8.02 billion (around $6 billion), which does not reflect the true potential.
Following the talks, the two sides signed a joint declaration of intent for cooperation in the field of ICT and electronics, terms of reference for the India-Canada ministerial energy dialogue, and memorandums of understanding for cooperation in the areas of sports, intellectual property rights, higher education, and science, technology and innovation.