Prime Minister Narendra Modi not receiving his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau at the airport, a courtesy he extended to some world leaders in the past, has triggered speculation in Canada that it was a snub to him for the rising Sikh radicalism in that country.
However, government sources strongly rejected the speculation, insisting normal diplomatic protocol has been extended to Trudeau.
They also expressed surprise over the Canadian side preferring to schedule Trudeau’s official engagements in Delhi at the fag end of the tour as against the normal practice of having bilateral meetings during the first part of such visits.
The sources said it is quite unusual for a visiting dignitary to slot important talks towards the end of a visit, besides setting aside little time for official engagements.
Trudeau will hold bilateral talks with Modi on Friday, a day before he wraps up his tour.
A section of the Canadian media has also talked about the Indian prime minister’s absence during Trudeau’s visit to Gujarat, Modi’s home state.
“We have own set of parameters for measuring importance,” an official said, while calling the criticism by Canadian media “unfounded”.
The sources said there was no “substantive content” in Trudeau’s programme in Gujarat for which the prime minister’s presence was required.
Referring to Modi accompanying Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during the latter’s visit to Gujarat in September last year, the sources said the visit was “very high” in content which included laying the foundation for India’s first high-speed bullet train project besides other components.
Commentators in Canadian media highlighted that Union Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Shekhawat received Trudeau at the Delhi airport when he arrived on a seven-day India visit on Saturday evening and contrasted it against Modi himself receiving several world leaders at the airport.
“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’,” tweeted Canadian author and columnist Candice Malcolm.
There were stories in Canadian media that said Trudeau’s perceived support for Sikh separatists may be the reason for the “snub”.
The Sikhs in Canada wield significant political clout and Trudeau’s Cabinet has four Sikh members.
The sources said the prime minister received around five leaders at the airport during the last three-and-half years which included the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Barack Obama, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan twice.