Describing India as a “pluralistic place” that has “done reasonably well,” Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who visited Gujarat on Monday, said a lot of societies are turning “inwards towards nationalism or protectionism” as a way of holding on to the past.
Terming the heterogeneous communities and societies as the “new reality of 21st century”, the Canadian PM while interacting with the student community at the Indian Institute of Management-Ahmedabad (IIM-A) said, “The biggest challenge that we are going to have as species – is doing something that India has always done fairly well and Canada does fairly well as well – which is understanding that differences have to become a source of strength and not source of weakness.”
Trudeau talked at length about the pluralistic societies that exist in Canada and how they have given shelter to about 4,0000 Syrian refugees. “This approach (pluralism) is something that a lot of societies are struggling with and they, in many places, turn inwards towards nationalism or protectionism as a way of holding on to a way, that we used to be, a …. India as a pluralistic place has always done reasonably well. It can always do better, just like we can do better,” he remarked.
“I take a much more successful and pluralistic approach. When we actually meet people who have a different story to tell, we run, we grow; you tend to create resilient communities,” Trudeau said, adding that pluralistic societies rest on “shared values” and not on “surface attributes” like language, religion and ethnicity.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau, who arrived at Ahmedabad airport with his family, was welcomed by Gujarat’s tourism minister Ganpath Vasava, chief secretary JN Singh and city mayor Gautam Shah. Around the same time, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani attended a puja to inaugurate the refurbished state legislative assembly building at Gandhinagar.
During an hour-long session with a journalist from a private Indian television channel, the Canadian PM responded to queries from the audience on feminism, dynastic politics and on “an Indian leader who inspired him”. Trudeau, who visited the Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad and Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar as part of his day-long visit to Ahmedabad, described Mahatma Gandhi “an inspiration”.
Responding to a question on dynastic politics, Trudeau, who is the son of late Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, said dealing with people’s expectations is one of the toughest things. “Citizens are not fools, citizens can tell whether someone is genuine in their approach or just trying to live up to some lofty familial expectation. For me, I focused on how I could best make a difference all my life. I decided early on, much to my father’s pleasure, that I would not go anywhere near politics, because of one thing – I knew more than anyone else the kind of impact it (politics) has on kids. It was not an automatic choice for me.”
Taking about trade, the Canadian PM felt there is “a lot of room to grow”. “We are certainly very aggressive in pursuing trade negotiations with a broad range of countries, including India… Right now Canada-India trade is about eight billion dollars a year, which is great in goods, and another two billion dollars in services. But we do two billion dollars worth of trade every day with the United States. So there is a lot of room to grow, even though distances are a challenge,” he said, adding that Canada was currently in talks with India about pulses on which an import duty has been placed.
“We have 125,000 Indian students in our universities every single year. We want to do much more. India is our second source of foreign students in Canada, but definitely in line to be number one, perhaps later this year if the trend continues,” he said, adding that Gujarat was among the top three destinations in India that was sending students to Canada.
After attending the session at IIMA, the Canadian PM met Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani at the complex of Gujarat State Aviation Infrastructure Company Ltd (Gujsail) at the airport, where the latter invited Trudeau for the Vibrant Gujarat summit in 2019.