The ridiculous costumes worn by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his trip to India got all the attention in the American media, but the Indian political and media establishment is far more upset over his implied support for secessionist forces seeking an independent secessionist state for Sikhs, known as Khalistan. They are suggesting that the motivation for his trip was to gain political support from Canada’s large immigrant population of Sikhs.
The Times of India is using unusually blunt language to describe the depth of the disaster in an article titled, “Why Trudeau’s disaster trip may trigger a reset in India-Canada ties.”
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau’s visit was a disaster that has little parallel in India’s recent diplomatic history. (snip)
A prime ministerial visit to a foreign country for a week with a thin official component is always fraught with danger. In addition, moving the official meetings to the very end of the trip indicated that the government meetings were an after-thought. Most foreign leaders who throw in other events almost always front-load the official meetings, and then go on to business or tourism events.
Here, it was clear from the start that Trudeau came to India to score with his Sikh constituency back home — four out of the six cabinet ministers who travelled with him were Sikh, as were an overwhelming number of MPs who also travelled with him. Until the media barrage in India forced the Canadian side to change tack, Trudeau was not even ready to meet Amarinder Singh, chief minister of Punjab. Even the Canadian high commissioner’s official reception was a celebration of Punjab with the prime minister himself waltzing in on bhangra beats.
The most glaring misstep was not that Trudeau and his family dressed up in gaudy clothes — that could pass off as a celebration of Indian ethnic chic even if it was slightly over the top. It was Canada’s misunderstanding of the depth of feeling in India on the Khalistan issue. Canadian officials compared the Khalistan issue to the Quebec separatist movement — which counted a single death (of a minister, Pierre Laporte) as opposed to the tens of thousands who were killed at the hands of Khalistanis. Over the years, successive Indian governments have tried to get Canadian governments to change their minds.
“Canada is the only country where the head of government is comfortable to be seen with Sikh separatists,” said senior government sources. There are Khalistani activists in the UK and Australia, but in no country is the government seen to be pandering to these forces. In the event, the joint statement issued at the end of the week-long visit, which named the Babbar Khalsa and International Sikh Youth Federation along with al-Qaida and ISIS, passed everyone by. There is no political cost either — both these groups have been banned in Canada. Officials said they had flagged the Khalistan problem to the Canadian side before the visit began, including at the NSA level during the last round of security talks.
As a native of Quebec, whose separatist movemnet roiled Canadian politics for decades, Trudeau ought be sensitive to the political implications in India of his palling aournd with Sikh separatists. But domestic political gains apparently dominated any consideration of the effects of his actions on his host country.
Isn't this the sort of fear that many expressed about the presidency of Donald Trump? Trudeau, as the son of a leftist Prime Minister of Canada, was assumed to be a master diplomat. Instead, Canada has a reckless buffoon in charge.