Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau arrived in India on February 17. He is on an eight-day visit to the country.
Interestingly, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not think it was important enough to welcome him at the airport. According to the foreign ministry, it is not part of protocol for the Prime Minister to personally welcome visiting dignitaries at the airport.
However, it must be noted that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has earlier made the effort to welcome world leaders such as former American President Barack Obama, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the airport.
What is also pretty interesting is that the Indian Prime Minister who is the second most followed leader of a nation after US President Donald Trump hasn’t tweeted even once about Trudeau’s visit to India.
Justin Trudeau’s schedule includes only half a day of engagements in New Delhi. Modi and Trudeau are scheduled to meet on Friday.
It is being perceived that this cold shoulder is because some influential members of the Liberal Party in Canada, of which Justin Trudeau is a leader are sympathetic to the Khalistani secessionist movement in Punjab.
Economist Vivek Dehija told the BBC, “His Liberal party relies heavily on the Sikh-Canadian vote bank and some of the Sikh members of his government are fellow travellers with the Khalistanis.”
Four ministers from Justin Trudeau’s cabinet are Canadian-Sikhs. Trudeau had joked once in 2016 and said, “I have more Sikhs in my cabinet than Modi does.’’
There are allegations against two of them having sympathies with the Khalistani movement.
In April last year, Justin Trudeau had attended a ‘Khalsa Day’ parade in Toronto. In the parade, Sikh militants such as Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale were glorified using floats. The Ministry of External Affairs had claimed to take up this issue with the Canadian government. Interestingly, the former Prime Minister of Canada Stephen Harper had not attended the rally on earlier occasions and both Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi had visited the country in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
Last month, a ban had been put on Indian government representatives from entering 14 gurudwaras in Ontario, Canada, unless they are to make a personal visit.
However, it must be noted that Justin Trudeau met the chief ministers of Gujarat and Maharashtra and is scheduled to meet the chief minister of Punjab.
While it cannot be said with certainty that there are tensions brewing between the two camps, the response of the central government to the visit of such a high profile international politician is certainly unusual.