Is Justin Trudeau holidaying in India on taxpayers' money? Canada wants to know

It is worth noting that his India itinerary includes just half a day of official engagements in New Delhi.

 |  4-minute read |   20-02-2018
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At a time Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's India visit is going largely unnoticed or being talked about only for the "snub" it has received from top Indian leadership, Trudeau shouldn't look to his own country for comfort.

It is worth mentioning that three days after his arrival, Canada and India entered a two-way investment deal worth $1 billion covering a range of sectors from natural health products to artificial intelligence.

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Yet, Justin Trudeau and his visit have come in for severe criticism in Canada with the "diplomatic tour" being dismissed as a long "family vacation" focused on photo-ops.

Ottawa-based Canadian Taxpayers Federation, an advocacy group, is not impressed with the itinerary. In an email response to Hindustan Times, its federal director, Aaron Wudrick, said: "While it is understood that a prime minister will have to travel frequently, the proportion of time being spent actually meeting foreign counterparts on this trip does not suggest a good use of public money. A week is a long time for a PM to spend visiting one country, and a half of a day out of eight is very little official business."

Wudrick said, "A cynic might suggest that the main benefit of this trip is boosting the esteem of the prime minister in the eyes of Canada's large Indian diaspora. It is of course his right to electioneer - but Canadian taxpayers should not be paying for it (the Liberal Party of Canada should)."

It is worth mentioning that in 2016, Trudeau took a 10-day long trip to China and drew flak for it back home with CBC News, a division of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, pegging the cost of the trip at $1.8 million.

Ottawa-based Carleton University professor, Vivek Dehejia and Wudrick appeared to be on the same page. Dehejia said, "This is an enormous waste of taxpayers' money since it appears that so little of substance will be accomplished."

It is worth noting that Trudeau's India itinerary includes just half a day of official engagements in New Delhi — being described as "unusual" by veteran diplomats and the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

Insisting that his visit shouldn't be seen as a failure, Trudeau said that ties between nations aren't just political in nature; they include economic and trade links too. A report by CBC News said that Trudeau's India visit looked more like a "family vacation" than an exercise for diplomatic engagement.

The report went to say that while the trip was being touted as a bid to "heat up Indo-Canadian relations", the response to it so far has been dubbed as "lukewarm" back home.

Trudeau was greeted by junior agriculture minister, Gajendra Singh Shekhawat, upon arrival in New Delhi, and isn't scheduled to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi until February 23, a good six days into the trip.

In Canada, citizens are also suggesting that with his India visit, Trudeau is only trying to play to the minority gallery back home.

Of the 35.2 million people living in Canada, immigrants account for two-thirds of its growth. As many as 7.7 million Canadians - or more than 22 per cent of the population - belong to a sizeable minority. Trudeau's planned stopover at the Golden Temple in Amritsar is being viewed as a bid to tap into the support of this section. Dehejia described this as "mostly playing to the diaspora gallery in Canada".

Canadian journalists travelling with Trudeau have also asked him about the response he received from the Indian government. And they are decidedly unimpressed.

Not currying favour, Mr Prime Minister.

Also read: I'm surprised Modi, like Indira Gandhi, has ensured Doordarshan remains biased and boring

Writer

Vandana Vandana @vandana5

Author is assistant editor DailyO.

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