Atithi devo bhava (the guest is equivalent to God) Indian motto has pretty much brushed off towards the Canadian Trudeaus who are currently on a week-long trip to India. So what is India’s snub towards Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?
It is not uncommon to see Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi head to airports to receive world leaders, and how can we forget about his famous bear-hug. The endless photo-ops, public rallies and hearty welcomes are rained down by the Indian PM from the moment any world leader sets their foot on the Indian soil. When Canadian PM Justin Trudeau along with his wife and kids, landed in India on February 17, they were welcomed with a warm typical namaste – just not from Modi, instead he just sent out his junior minister. No Modi hugs for Trudeau. Not even a welcome to India tweet from Modi. And it gets worse. When the photogenic Trudeaus visited the beautiful Taj Mahal – they were not even welcomed by a state minister, or a junior minister; just by district officials.
In Ahmedabad, where other world leaders devoured pompous road shows along with Modi and a number of events – Trudeaus went on alone exploring Gujarat, wearing ethnic Indian clothes to visit a Hindu temple and Gandhi’s abode. So the Canadian Prime Minister, his wife and three children are pretty much wandering across the nation, like any casual tourist in India would. Also, Modi will be meeting Trudeau only toward the end of his week-long India visit. So what really is all the snubbing about? Answer: It has to do something with Sikhs.
Canada is filled with million Indians, especially Sikhs and they make up a significant amount of vote-bank share in the country. For Trudeau particularly, the Sikhs have formed a voting bloc and they are part of the Canadian PM’s cabinet. But India, on the other hand, has been alleging Canada for sheltering Sikh separatists who would like to see Indian Punjab separated from India into the state of Khalistan. To spine the accusations, some Sikh Gurudwaras in Canada have also barred the entry of Indian diplomats, the Canadian government supported Khalsa Day celebrations and then, all the history of the Khalistan movement in 1980s.
Now India wants Trudeau to publicly distance himself from Sikh separatists because India somehow fears that the sort of thing which Canada is doing, could re-ignite Sikh extremism in Indian Punjab. On the other hand, the guy can’t shun the community that numbers up to half a million – forming the largest ethnic group among Indian-origin Canadians. While it is true that during the trip, Trudeau publicly affirmed Canada’s commitment towards “the unity and integrity of India”. But he also talked about India’s diversity and pluralism, which could be interpreted by the Canadian Sikhs as Trudeau having given a clear message to India. So the aim of snub from New Delhi is to impose pressure on the Canadians and make them decide a clearer side. Trudeau clearly will have to pick a side. I mean, how Canada would act if India supported the Quebec separatists? We can imagine the situation, right? So that applies both ways.