The Big Story: Colours of Trudeau

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family landed in India on Saturday in shades of flame. Carefully chosen kurtas in red and bright yellow were accessorised with folded hands. Not for Trudeau the prime ministerial wave of other visiting heads of state. Canada’s nippy young leader had done his homework, was the message.

Over the next few days, what the Canadian visit lacked in prime ministerial bonhomie, it made up for in fashion diplomacy. At a meeting with Indian film stars, it was a gold, embroidered sherwani with a stole, which prompted comparisons with the traditional Bollywood “dulha”, or bridegroom. At the Golden Temple in Amritsar, the family paid a visit dressed in kurtas in shades of pastel and blue, with scarves covering their heads.

Trudeau has always been keen to get his cultural messaging right, particularly with the Indian community in Canada, dressing up for Pongal and Diwali, wishing everyone “Dewali Mubarak”, much to the consternation of the saffron brigade. But is he quite on point this visit? A mildly embarrassed Canadian press has already criticised the family for “overdoing” their Indian outfits, for dressing more Indian than Indians, rather in the manner of teenagers ticking off an overenthusiastic parent who has suddenly taken to Beyonce. Indeed, Vogue has already accused the prime minister of “doing the most”, in other words, lacking chill.

Even in India, the Canadian prime minister’s sartorial efforts may be looking a bit strained. National Conference leader Omar Abdullah recently took exception to the “cuteness” of the outfits:

The art of fashion diplomacy is a delicate one, especially if you are a Western leader visiting a post-colonial country. It is a fine line between culturally insensitive and just de trop. Former United States First Lady Michelle Obama and Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton honed their cultural messaging by picking Indian designers. Ivanka Trump did her version of the oriental: pearl beaded jackets and chintzy silks.

Foreign dignitaries sweating in the traditional dress of the countries they visit or treating the whole trip like a costume party is now passe and so last season. Only think of Jimmy Carter and his wife waltzing around in traditional Ghanaian attire. Trudeau carries himself off with much more panache than that but the phrase “going native” sometimes feels dangerously apt.

The Big Scroll

  • The Canadian press is not perturbed if Trudeau is being snubbed in India.
  • Delhi did not snub Justin Trudeau but his vote-bank politics is cause for concern, says Vishnu Prakash, former Indian envoy to Canada.


  1. In the Indian Express, Anjali Bhardwaj on how allegations by judges raise serious doubts about the independence ofthe judiciary.
  2. In the Hindu, T Ramakrishnan warns against strident political stands on water-sharing issues as with the Cauvery.
  3. In the Economic Times, Abheek Baruah on the sudden collapse of the stock markets.


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