TORONTO: While the bilateral relationship between India and Canada has taken a knock in recent months, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s call to his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Monday is being seen as an overture to overcome the recent rift that has developed between the two nations.
The Prime Ministers had a cordial conversation indicating an effort to restore the upswing in ties that was evident earlier this year. A statement issued by the Indian Prime Minister’s Office said, “He appreciated the steady all round progress in diverse areas of bilateral engagement with Canada. Both leaders agreed to continue communication and cooperation to promote stronger ties.”
Significantly, the call was initiated by Trudeau. The conversation appears to have focused on the Paris treaty, as the statement noted: “Both leaders exchanged views on developments of mutual interest, specifically climate change. Prime Minister Modi reaffirmed India’s commitment to take forward implementation of the Paris Agreement.”
Modi also congratulated Trudeau on the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. While as many as eight Canadian cabinet ministers have visited India over the past 10 months, the last was by Canada’s minister of national defence Harjeet Sajjan in April. However, that trip was mired in controversy.
But a series of events have irritated New Delhi. Those include a private members’ motion passed in the Assembly of the province of Ontario which termed the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”. Soon after, Trudeau himself appeared at a Khalsa Day nagar kirtan in Toronto at which the motion’s mover Harinder Malhi was honoured while the parade at the event featured Khalistani flags and separatist floats.
The Indian government has been irate over a resurgence in the Khalistani movement in Canada, which it considers to be partly due to the Liberal Party (which is led by Trudeau) playing to hardline groups and gurdwaras that act as gatekeepers of the community, as officials have complained. New Delhi has found that troublesome since it had initiated multiple measures, including backchannel talks, to wean away a section of Indo-Canadians from the movement.
Meanwhile, both PMs are expected to be at the Hamburg G20 summit in July but there appears to have been no move as yet for them to meet on the margins of that global event. Trudeau’s much-anticipated visit to India has also been delayed several times and is now expected either at the end of this year or in early 2018. While plenty of frost has formed in the relationship in recent months, the call from Trudeau could possibly be an overture meant at getting some warmth back between Ottawa and New Delhi.