NEW DELHI: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Tuesday endorsed his National Security Adviser Daniel Jean’s assertion that some factions in the Indian government had tried to sabotage his visit to India by granting a visa to a Sikh extremist.
New Delhi was not amused. “Let me categorically state that the Government of India… had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable,” said Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.
Trudeau’s week-long state visit to India visit was panned as a disaster by both the Indian and Canadian media, particularly after Jaspal Atwal, a pro-Khalistani Canadian Sikh convicted of attempting to assassinate an Indian Cabinet minister in 1986, was invited to the two events. The second invitation was withdrawn after pictures of Atwal with Trudeau’s wife Sophie at the event in Mumbai surfaced, but the damage had been done.
On Tuesday, in his first parliament session after his return from India, Trudeau was grilled by the opposition about the trip. He was also asked whether he supported remarks made by an official—later identified as Jean—suggesting that Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government “who want to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with a foreign government they believe is not committed to a united India”.
Instead of dismissing it, Trudeau declared that “when one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians, it’s because they know it to be true”.
“This is all the more bizarre because it comes after Canadian MP Randeep S Sarai publicly took full responsibility for inviting Atwal to Trudeau’s reception dinner in New Delhi,” said a senior Indian diplomat. “I believe Sarai’s resignation from the Canadian parliament’s Pacific Caucus chair over this has also been accepted by Trudeau. With this, Trudeau has once again shot himself in the foot and needlessly provoked New Delhi.”