Relations between India and Justin Trudeau's Canada 'worsen' after tense G20 summit

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi limited his exchanges with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to a firm handshake and a brief sit-down following contentious protests in June that appeared to mock the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

Relations between India and Justin Trudeau's Canada 'worsen' after tense G20 summit
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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has embarrassed Canada in India a second time after becoming the centre of attention, but for all the wrong reasons.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi limited his exchanges with Trudeau following protests in Canada that appeared to glorify the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.

They shared a tense exchange limited to a firm handshake and a brief sit-down on the final day of the G20 summit, reported True North.

Modi also hosted a gala dinner that Trudeau did not attend and left out Canada's leader from a video montage with other G20 states and non-G20 actors.

A reporter asked Trudeau what his government contributed to the G-20 discussions this year. He replied: "As always, Canada is a strong voice for including gendered language and Indigenous reflections." 

When asked what he discussed with Modi, Trudeau said they discussed alleged election interference by India, which Modi did not mention during an interview with local media. 

Instead, he expressed strong concerns with recent Sikh protesters in Canada, particularly those who support the creation of an independent Sikh state, Khalistan.

In June, India denounced a float depicting the 1984 assassination of Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by two Sikh bodyguards after she permitted her military to storm the Golden Temple to flush out Sikh separatists.

Canada, home to the most prominent Sikh diaspora outside of India, is also home to some from the community vying to separate from India.

"They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship," said the Indian government in a statement.

Trudeau responded that Canada is a bastion of "freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and peaceful protest." 

"At the same time, we are always there to prevent violence, to push back against hatred," he said, but clarified the float represented the actions of the few who "do not represent the entire community or Canada." 

Indian media lashed out at Trudeau's hypocrisy, stating the prime minister mishandled and suppressed the Freedom Convoy protests in February 2022.

This marks the second time Trudeau faced pushback from the Indian press as prime minister.

In February 2018, then-Liberal MP for Surrey Centre, Randeep Sarai, invited a convicted ex-member of a controversial Sikh separatist group to dine with Trudeau at a formal event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Delhi. 

Jaspal Atwal, the person in question, attempted to murder Indian cabinet minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu on Vancouver Island in 1986 and would later have his invitation rescinded. 

Trudeau faced a media firestorm at the time, forcing him to respond.

"We take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation, and as soon as we found out, we rescinded the invitation immediately," he told reporters. 

"The member of Parliament who included this individual has, and will, assume full responsibility for his actions."

Relations between Canada and India deteriorated further after Trudeau issued public support for Sikh farmers protesting the Indian government in 2020 and 2021, which claimed the lives of nearly 700 people, including farmers.

The culmination of several diplomatic disagreements paused talks last month on a proposed trade treaty with India, just three months after both countries aimed to seal an initial agreement this year. 

To make matters worse, Trudeau’s chartered plane, a 1980s Royal Canadian Air Force CC-150 Polaris, experienced several mechanical problems before takeoff.

"The Canadian Armed Forces continue their best efforts to get the Canadian delegation home. We will update you regularly as the situation evolves," said the prime minister's press secretary, Mohammad Hussain.

"Their latest update shows an earliest possible departure of Tuesday late afternoon, [though] the situation remains fluid."

According to the CBC, a technician from Canada is en route with the replacement part required for the plane to be airborne. 

Trudeau had a replacement plane en route to return him home, but that too faced delays after diverting from Rome to London, England.

The plane was scheduled to leave London for India on Tuesday morning. 

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