Why Justin Trudeau must kill Khalistan rumours

Charu Ratna Dubey
Charu Ratna DubeyFeb 21, 2018 | 18:11

Why Justin Trudeau must kill Khalistan rumours

Justin Trudeau’s first state visit to India is his longest stay as Canadian prime minister in any foreign country. Incidentally, it is also the first time a Canadian PM is visiting Gujarat. Undoubtedly, the expectations from this visit are sky high, and the possibilities boundless.

During his week-long stay, PM Trudeau, with his wife and three children, is travelling across the country during a state visit, another first for a Canadian PM. In 1983, Justin — then a 11-year-old — had accompanied his father, former Canadian PM Pierre Trudeau, on an official tour to India. The latest visit will have nostalgia associated with it, add to it his father’s attachment to India and his views on Indo-Canada relations.


Bilateral relations between the two countries are all the more important considering that four percent Canadians are said to be of Indian origin. Forty thousand Indians migrated to Canada last year and 1,24,000 Indians are studying in Canada, forming the second largest group of foreign students in the country. More than 1,000 Canadian companies have offices in India. Add to that Canada needs India in the age of the Donald Trump administration in the United States, especially when North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) negotiations are under process and can take any shape.

Trade has been one of the chief aspects of the Indo-Canada relationship. In the last decade, bilateral trade reached a milestone when it grew by $8 billion, almost equally divided into exports and imports. Although Canadian investment in India increased by more than $15 billion over the past three years, both sides believe there is enough scope for more because neither figures in the other’s top 15 trading partners list.

The Trudeau family at Sabarmati Ashram. Photo: Reuters

Two major agreements, on Foreign Investment Protection and free trade, are yet to be finalised. Hopefully, this visit will help solve the problematic situation.


Apart from trade and investment, climate change, strategic ties with focus on defence and counter-terrorism are important areas where both countries can work closely. At the international level, Canada and India have maintained a clean image and are capable of forming a group of “like-minded” nations against global terrorism.

In fact, every vote at the world body counts. These are areas which have not been explored by both the nations, and leave much to be desired. It is important to mention here that Canada supported the Indian bid to join Nuclear Support Group (NSG).

This visit can succeed only when major roadblocks, particularly the recent allegation that Trudeau’s Liberal Party has a “soft approach” to pro-Khalistani Sikh extremism, are resolved.

In April 2017, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh’s refusal to meet Canada’s defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan — the former called him a “Khalistani Sympathiser” — made headlines in both countries.

The fear was reportedly expressed by New Delhi when PM Modi met Canadian PM Trudeau on the sidelines of Davos, and cannot be ignored by Canada. Hence, Trudeau should use the political platform to clarify his stand on this simmering issue, and end the controversy.


It is worthwhile to note that Canadians of Indian descent as well as Indians observe such visits by any dignitary very closely because they believe that such tours should not be used by the politicians to capture mere vote banks.

For Trudeau, it is time to prove that visiting the Golden Temple at Amritsar and Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad is not a bid to secure votes back home — that he is actually committed to the future of bilateral relations with India.

Engagements such as energy security, science and technology also need to be focused upon.

India deserves Canada’s attention and the latter must find the niche areas where both countries can work together.

On India’s part, if the promised domestic reforms are delivered by the Modi government, a plethora of opportunities can take bilateral trade and investment to an altogether different level.

For the sake of the bright future of two democratic countries with robust economies and shared values, one hopes this visit by Trudeau serves both India and Canada well.

Last updated: February 21, 2018 | 19:21
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