By Arvind Bhardwaj
It was nice to see our PM Justin Trudeau in formal attire after a week long colourful affair and family vacation. The long-awaited visit witnessed so many ups & downs that Trudeau seemed to be in India since ages. The week passed too long, and I am sure Trudeau must have felt the same.
Indian Media, Canadian Main Stream Media, Canadian Ethnic Media (Especially Punjabi) have reported this visit very (over) enthusiastically. Still, there are many simple facts and observations, which have been purposely ignored and that’s the real purpose of this article, even though endless details and enough content has been published and aired about PM’s India visit.
I really don’t believe that PM Trudeau was not welcomed in India as protocol suggests. These are strategically important things and no country will do such things, which may affect their own country’s image. Indian External Affair Ministry must have had some strategic, economic & political reasons, If PM Modi had gone the extra mile for other Premiers visiting our country. And moreover, none of the other Premiers were on family vacation in addition to their official visit. The state honour was extended with famous “Modi Hug” to PM Justin Trudeau, when they met officially. Indian PMO would have told Punjab Government as well to cut down the welcome show, we saw in Golden Temple, if that was the case.
Further, I also believe that there was no problem with Trudeau’s colourful attire during the visit. I think you need guts to wear something, which you do not usually wear, and he looked amazing. He dressed according to the functions/gatherings he attended and was wooed by his voters.
But many unfortunate things happened, like Atwal’s invitation to the dinner and the issue relating to Maninder Saini, which really flared up to the level that Canadian PM himself had to clarify, with apology and full responsibility taken by MP Randeep Sarai from Surrey Centre. He later stepped down as caucus chair.
Now we need to understand how these visits are planned and managed. There are no surprise welcomes or cold shoulders, there are no sudden responsibilities given to MPs, there are no sudden meetings and agendas to be discussed and there are no last-minute invitees. Everything is planned well in advance and agreed between foreign officials and security agencies.
Trudeau had to stand by senior security official’s conspiracy theory behind Atwal’s invitation. Trudeau stated in parliament in response to a question – “When one of our top diplomats and security officials says something to Canadians it’s because they know it to be true.” Does he have any option except to stand behind his top security personnel’s statement?
If fact, there are just two key factors behind why Trudeau government had to experience the bumpy ride in India? One, an over enthusiastic Sikh cabinet, who just focussed on portraying Punjabi community’s dominance in Canadian Politics. Their effort to impress Punjab and India weighed heavily on Trudeau’s cabinet. The whole agenda went for a toss. From wedding clothes to Atwal’s invitation were just over rated efforts to woo and secure Sikh votes in the coming elections. Two, the south Asian consultation team of Trudeau Government only analysed the Liberal’s aspect and expectations of PM’s visit to India. They misjudged the political scenario and temperament of India on world politics. They never expected the Indian foreign policy makers to be at a different tangent at present as the Modi government is also going to face elections in the near future.
There was no need to carry the whole Punjabi cabinet to India especially Punjab. It rather backfired and raised eyebrows of political parties and the media as well. Just a couple of ministers and trade related officials would have given a more formal face to the delegation. A big internal shift in Indo-Canada relationship team is required. The trade relations and welfare of lentil farmers are no less important than wooing sikh votes, which either ways may swing to NDP after Jagmeet’s rise, despite all Liberal’s efforts.
(The writer is a Management Professional & Social Speaker)