By many accounts, Justin Trudeau is finding India less than welcoming – and has been accorded a cool reception by its ruling establishment. But this doesn’t seem to have bothered the media in the Canadian prime minister’s homeland: most reports in the country’s English newspapers have instead focused on the business deals Trudeau has struck.
When Trudeau landed in Delhi for a week-long state visit on February 17, he was greeted by a junior official: Minister of State for Agriculture Gajendra Singh Shekhawat. This was in stark contrast to the welcome accorded by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to other global leaders such as Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel and Crown Prince Mohammad bin Zayed Al Nahyan of the United Arab Emirates. That set the tone. Trudeau took his family to the Taj Mahal in Agra and Sabarmati Ashram in Gujarat, unaccompanied by anybody of note even though Modi has himself shown many visiting leaders around sights in his home state.
According to analysts, the strict formality is the result of the Modi government’s belief that the Canadian prime minister has been soft on Sikh separatist Khalistani groups in his country.
Trudeau is set to meet Modi on Friday and it remains to be seen whether the meeting would be overshadowed by the frosty reception Trudeau has received so far.
The Canadian media, however, is counting the successes from the prime minister’s visit rather than the slights, real or imagined, he might have endured.
Looking at the bright side
In a report titled “Trudeau announces Canadian-Indian investment deal worth $1 billion”, Toronto Star said “the investment deals are the first tangible delivery from Trudeau’s trip and come despite the fact Canada and India trade is not growing as quickly as some had hoped”.
Huff Post Canada counted even Shekhawat’s presence on the tarmac as a positive, describing it as “notable because among the concerns Trudeau is being asked to raise...is recent Indian import taxes applied to chickpeas and other pulse crops”.
The Globe and Mail focused on Trudeau’s meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, describing it as an attempt to “mend fences with the state where a majority of Indian Canadians are from”. The prime minister made it “very, very clear” to Singh that “Canada supports a united India and condemns violent extremism,” the report said, “describing his repeated allegations...that Canadian ministers are separatists as misunderstandings and extremely false”.
The Calgary Herald did mention reports about the Indian government “snubbing” Trudeau but did not dwell on them – it wondered if it was deliberate – or make a comment, devoting more space to the $1 billion investment deal.