Sunday, February 18, 2018

A Diplomatic Spurning 

"For me to be able to be here on an official trip while bringing my kids with me to share this is really special."
"It sort of shows for me how work-life balance has evolved a bit."
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau
Canadian PM Trudeau was visiting the Taj Mahal at the start of a visit to India in which he will aim to promote trade and investment with India
Canadian PM Trudeau was visiting the Taj Mahal at the start of a visit to India in which he will aim to promote trade and investment with India

So then, Justin Trudeau has gone off on a seven-day holiday jaunt with family on the taxpayer's dime to India. Who wouldn't appreciate that opportunity? All the more so when the cost doesn't come out of your personal bank account. Canadians are footing that holiday. Justin Trudeau and wife are fond of that kind of arrangement, reminiscent of their Christmas jaunt off to the Aga Khan's all-expense-paid (except for the hefty amount paid by the Canadian taxpayer) private estate on an island in the Bahamas.

They embarked from their plane on arrival in India with the Trudeau family expressing their fond familiarity with Hindu custom by inclining heads downward, and clasping hands together on their chests, as patronizing and cynical a gesture as any to demonstrate their good faith in another faith. But this is yet another Trudeau specialty accompanying his sunny ways; to ingratiate himself with Sikhs and Muslims by adopting their gear and briefly gifting them with his presence at their temples of worship. Getting out the vote rather prematurely.

Candice MalcolmVerified account @CandiceMalcolm
On official state visits to India, PM Modi personally greets and welcomes the Israeli PM, UAE Crown Prince and US President. For PM Trudeau, he sends a low-ranking official. “Canada is back”

The Trudeau entourage and the ostensible reason for the trip, as a "trade mission" doesn't appear to have impressed the powers that be in India, however. India's growing political, cultural and economic clout hasn't escaped Trudeau's advisers and since this prime minister has mishandled trade deals with the Trans Pacific Partnership, with China, and fears the final outcome of the renegotiated NAFTA, a trade deal with the world's second largest population, fifth largest economy would do wonders for a country that appears to be experiencing some stumbles in its near economic outlook.

This is a state visit without a reciprocal state acknowledgement of its status. Indian Prime Minister Modi, who appeared to have enjoyed his relationship with former Prime Minister Stephen Harper doesn't seem too impressed by a new Canadian Prime Minister whose cabinet includes four Sikh-Canadians who appear to have separatist sympathies by association. The cultural and economic ties that Trudeau appears to have been intent on tweaking doesn't in fact appear to be mirrored on the Indian side.

But then, perhaps this isn't as important to Trudeau as the impression he hopes to make on the home front, hitting all the right buttons to impress ethnic/religious voters in Canada with his visit.

The uncomfortable impression that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh appears to be weighted with, that Canada's Minister of Defence Harjit Sajjan is a Khalistan sympathizer, matched by his statement to Outlook India magazine that "there seems to be evidence that there are Khalistani sympathizers in Trudeau's cabinet", appears to have cautioned Trudeau to bypass an anticipated and evidently pre-arranged meeting with Amarinder Singh, who was to have guided the Trudeau family through the Punjab portion of the visit.

And nor has Prime Minister Narendra Modi set aside much welcoming pomp and ceremony for a visiting head of a Commonwealth country. Both he and President Ram Nath Kovind will meet with Trudeau halfway through his seven-day itinerary. Most tellingly, is that no high-executive-level minister was present to greet Trudeau on his arrival at the airport. The Indian Agriculture Minister was dispatched to do the honours, and if that isn't a diplomatic slight it's hard to imagine what would rank as such.

Canada's 1.3 million Indo-Canadians are watching this little drama at a remove, and most will not be terribly impressed with the presence in India of their Canadian Prime Minister. This trip will, by all indications, certainly not turn out to be the success that Trudeau most certainly must have planned it to be. It is an awkward and untoward performance, altogether, one that does anything but inspire confidence in Canadians with their prime minister who has blundered time and again and never seems to learn circumspection.

Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and children, Xavier, 10, Ella-Grace, 9, and Hadrien, 3, arrive in New Delhi, India, on Saturday, Feb. 17, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)

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