India-Canada relations are at a standstill, with no ministerial level engagements happening for almost 9 months. According to a Hindustan Times report, there have been virtually no ministerial-level bilateral visits since PM Trudeau’s week-long visit to India in February this year.
The last visit of Trudeau to India was embroiled in controversies and had received a lukewarm response from the government. The scepticism of the Indian government reportedly was because of alleged bonhomie between the Canadian government and Khalistani elements. During PM Trudeau’s visit, things turned markedly worse for India-Canada relations, when the news broke that Trudeau’s entourage to India included Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal. Jaspal was convicted for trying to assassinate former Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sindhu in 1986.
Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu was expected to visit Canada in September, but the visit was reportedly called off. Minister of Road Transport and Highways Nitin Gadkari also had a scheduled visit, as per the HT report, but it got cancelled too.
MoS for External Affairs General VK Singh was supposed to attend the Halifax International Security Forum scheduled in November. He was going to attend in lieu of Minister of State for External Affairs MJ Akbar, who had to resign over charges of sexual harassment. But even that was cancelled.
Several attempts to schedule a bilateral meeting between External Minister Sushma Swaraj and her Canadian counterpart have reportedly yielded no results.
A visit by Canada’s minister of environment Catherine McKenna to India has also been cancelled. Though Canada’s parliamentary secretary for International Development Kamal Khera is scheduled to be in India in the coming days.
Trudeau’s visit to India was marred with numerous controversies. Trudeau was not extended a lavish ceremonial welcome like other prominent nation-heads. His initial reluctance to meet Punjab CM Captain Amarinder Singh had also caused a major stir in the diplomatic circles. After objection by Indian authorities over Jaspal Atwal’s presence in an event with the Canadian PM, Canadian authorities had to apologise for the ‘oversight’.
India’s strong objection to Trudeau’s soft stand over pro-Khalistani elements had eventually made Trudeau make some efforts to correct course and finally, he had, in his joint statement with India, named pro-Khalistani groups like Babbar Khalsa and ISYF along with global terror outfits like ISIS and Al Qaeda. Trudeau’s visit was criticised widely by the media in Canada too.
The report by HT quotes officials saying that the situation might not see improvement for another year as India will conduct general elections in April 2019 and Canada is to hold federal elections in October.