Canadian PM Trudeau, family visit Golden Temple

Faith Castro
February 22, 2018

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh in Amritsar, India on Wednesday.

Trudeau started the day with a tour of the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the holiest site in the Sikh faith, where he was received by enthusiastic crowds eager for a glimpse of the four Sikh members of his cabinet: Navdeep Bains, Bardish Chagger, Harjit Sajjan and Amarjeet Sohi. Although Singh told Indian media he would meet Trudeau at the Golden Temple in Amritsar during the prime minister's visit, Trudeau's office said before leaving for India that wasn't going to happen and no meeting was being arranged.

Media outlets including CNN and Al Jazeera have seized on the comments of Indian officials who have accused the Trudeau government of backing Sikh separatists.

A clash of political ideals may be behind a perceived snub of Justin Trudeau that has made global headlines as the prime minister passes the mid-point of his trip to India, says one expert familiar with the region.

During the 40-minute meeting between the two leaders, Singh handed over to Trudeau a list of nine "Category A" Canada-based operatives allegedly involved in hate crimes in Punjab by financing and supplying weapons for terrorist activities and radicalising youth and children here.

That changed Sunday when Sajjan himself asked for a meeting with himself, Trudeau and Singh.

Their three children also by their side, the family presented a picture ideal moment of the West meeting the East as they did sewa in Golden Temple, Amritsar.

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Amarinder also raised the issue of Indo-Canadians believed to be involved in targeted killings in Punjab.

A few hours later in New Delhi, Trudeau was pressed again on the issue and acknowledged that the topic had been discussed in the meeting "off the top". "We support one, united India", he said in Mumbai.

"The Khalistan issue, which has kept India-Canada ties on ice through three decades from 1980, has resurfaced, taking away much of the warmth" during Trudeau's visit, the Hindu daily said on Tuesday.

"We will always stand against extremism, either at home or overseas, but we understand that diversity of views is one of the great strengths of Canada".

"We will continue to work on these issues wherever they arise", said Trudeau. Given that Canada has long harboured a reputation as a place where diaspora groups congregate to support separatist movements (Sri Lanka, India, for example), Mr. Trudeau may return from India more attuned to particular realities of the vote banks and donors whose support he seeks.

In this photograph released by the Amritsar District Public Relations Officer on February 21, 2018, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (2R), his wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau (L), daughter Ella-Grace (2L) and son Xavier prepare chappati for a communal vegetarian meal known as "langar" at a community kitchen at the Golden Temple in Amritsar.

"His words are a big relief to all of us here in India and we look forward to the government's support in tackling fringe separatist elements", Singh wrote.

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