New Delhi: India raised “strong concerns” over activities of pro-Khalistan extremists in inciting violence, while Canada talked about “foreign interference” during the meeting between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his visiting Canadian counterpart Justine Trudeau on Sunday,
During the meeting which took place after the conclusion of the G-20 summit, the Indian readout said that Modi “conveyed our strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada”.
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 10, 2023
Meanwhile, Trudeau told reporters that he raised the issues of “foreign interference” with Modi. Earlier this year, Canada’s National Security Adviser Jody Thomas had said that India was one of the top sources of foreign interference, a designation that Canadian government had previously limited to authoritarian states like Iran, China and Russia.
Trudeau said that in his 15-minute meeting with the Indian PM, he had stressed on the “importance of respect for the rule of law, the integrity and sovereignty of democratic institutions and processes, and the ability of citizens of a country to choose their future”.
“Diaspora Canadians make up a huge proportion of our country, and they should be able to express themselves and make their choices without interference from any of the many countries that we know are involved in interference challenges,” he said.
In turn, Modi stated that these elements “are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship”.
“The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well. It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats,” said the Ministry of External Affairs’ press release.
This year, the MEA had summoned the Canadian high commissioner to India at least twice to lodge protest on issues related to the pro-Khalistani activists for targeting diplomatic personnel and premises.
Relations between India and Canada have been hit at the political level due to the Indian government’s perception that Ottawa doesn’t take sufficient action against the extremists. “Prime Minister also mentioned that a relationship based on mutual respect and trust is essential for the progress of India-Canada relationship,” said the MEA press note.
While the photo released by the Indian side showed the two leaders shaking hands, the Canadians used a photograph on their official Twitter account that showed both leaders seated and unsmiling.
Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with the Prime Minister of India, Narendra Modi, on the margins of the #G20Summit in New Delhi, India. Read a summary of the meeting: https://t.co/ZLMQW0UijU pic.twitter.com/fsHAMpFVTQ
— CanadianPM (@CanadianPM) September 10, 2023
According to Canadian media, Trudeau was the only leader to pull away from a longer handshake with Modi at Raj Ghat. The floral tributes paid by world leaders there was the closest to a family photo for the New Delhi G20 presidency.
Asked about this exchange at the news conference later, Trudeau suggested that people could read into it what they wished.
Earlier, Modi claimed that India-Canada relations were “anchored in shared democratic values, respect for rule of law and strong people-to-people ties”.
As per the official Canadian readout, Trudeau “raised the importance of respecting the rule of law, democratic principles, and national sovereignty” with the Indian PM.
Besides, Canada said that the “the two prime ministers discussed India’s priorities under this year’s G20 theme, ‘One Earth, One Family, One Future” and the importance of welcoming African Union as member of G20.
There was no mention about the Indian PM raising the Khalistan issue in the Canadian press release.
Trudeau was scheduled to leave Delhi on Sunday night, but due to a technical issue in the special flight, the delegation has extended their stay in the Indian capital.
This is, notably, Trudeau’s first visit to India since the disastrous one in 2018.