NEW DELHI: If Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was expecting Prime Minister Narendra Modi to greet him on the tarmac of Indira Gandhi International Airport on Saturday when he landed on a week-long visit, he was in for a disappointment. In fact, even the traditional welcome tweet by Modi was missing. Trudeau, accompanied by his wife Sophie Grégoire, their children Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien, 14 MPs, a senator and businessmen, was greeted by Minister of State for Agriculture Rajendra Singh Shekhawat and India’s High Commissioner to Canada, Vikas Swarup.
“On official state visits to India, PM Modi personally greets and welcomes the Israeli PM, UAE Crown Prince and US President. For PM Trudeau, he sends a low-ranking official. ‘Canada is back’,” tweeted Candice Malcolm, a columnist for the Toronto Sun. “Dear people of India, regardless of the views of our misguided Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the people of Canada support a united India. We oppose and condemn Khalistani radicals and Islamist terrorists,” she said in another tweet.
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who had earlier declined, agreed to meet him in Amritsar when Trudeau visits the city on February 21 after Mumbai. Analysts blame this “icy” treatment on the Trudeau government’s unwillingness to rein in elements among Canada’s large Sikh population—and some members in the Canadian Cabinet—who support a separate Sikh state of Khalistan. Ottawa cites freedom of speech to assert that it cannot act against those who “peacefully” support the demand for Khalistan.
Delhi says that there was no violation of protocol, and that Trudeau will meet Modi in Delhi on Friday, a day before he leaves. “PM Modi was busy with visiting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when Trudeau landed. He has other engagements. You can’t expect the PM to be in two places at the same time,” said a senior Indian official.