The visiting Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau, often referred to as “Justin Singh” for his outreach to the Sikh community in Canada, will meet Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on Wednesday. “Look forward to meeting Canadian Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday. I’m hopeful that this meeting will help strengthen the close Indo-Canadian business ties as well as the deep-rooted people-to-people relations between our two countries,” Singh tweeted on Monday evening.
The agenda is “open-ended”, said a source in the government. “We expect concerns and sensitivities from the Indian side to be conveyed appropriately. He will meet PM Narendra Modi Friday for bilateral talks,” said the source.
Sources told The Indian Express that the Canadian High Commission was initially hesitant about scheduling a meeting with Singh. Trudeau, after landing in Delhi on Saturday, took the call to reach out for a meeting. The MEA sent a new itinerary to Punjab government on Monday that included an interaction between the two on February 21. The one-to-one meeting may last for about 20 minutes as Trudeau is scheduled to reach Taj Swarna hotel, where the meeting is to take place, at 12.40 pm after visiting Golden Temple and Partition Museum, and leave for the airport at 1 pm to fly to Delhi at 1.15 pm.
In the past, Singh has alleged that some of Trudeau’s cabinet ministers are Khalistani sympathisers. He has also said that the Sikh community in Canada is a hotbed of Sikh separatists who support extremist elements.
Ahead of Trudeau’s visit, Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan had said on February 7 that Singh’s allegations were “offensive” and “ridiculous”. In his bilateral interactions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Trudeau has maintained that his party and government are in favour of a “united India”, but his country allows freedom of expression which does not go against the rule of law. However, there has been concern in South Block over Trudeau’s actions in the last one year.
Sources said there is a need to hold “some frank discussions” with Trudeau on this issue. While Modi had raised the issue with Trudeau during some of their bilateral interactions, sources said it is important to convey the importance of public opinion through the state leadership of Punjab.
Row over reception
There was controversy over PM Narendra Modi not receiving Canada PM Justin Trudeau at the airport. A Prime Minister does not receive a visiting PM or President at the airport as a rule. Prime Ministers make those exceptions, depending on the importance New Delhi gives to a particular bilateral relationship.
PM Modi has made a few exceptions, for example with Israel PM Benjamin Netanyahu, UAE’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed, Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe, US President Barack Obama and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina.
There was considerable thinking in South Block before Modi went to receive these leaders at the airport. It is a sum total of factors. As of now, the strategic component of the relationship is quite thin. India and Canada have an economic relationship. There is hardly any defence relationship and security cooperation is minimal. However, Canada is home to over 1.2 million PIOs, who comprise 3 per cent of its population. Besides, over 1 lakh Indian students study in Canada.
With inputs from Navjeevan Gopal in Chandigarh