India and Canada signed six pacts, including on energy cooperation and education, on Friday as Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a bilateral meeting with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau in Delhi.
Modi said Canada is a strategic partner for India. “Our bilateral ties are based on the principles of democracy and majoritarianism,” he said. Modi added that they discussed the situation in North Korea and Maldives.
The Indian prime minister said terrorism and extremism were a threat to both the countries. “There should be no space for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism. We will not tolerate those who challenge unity and integrity of our countries.” Analysts had said that India may express its concerns over Trudeau’s alleged soft stance on Khalistan supporters in Canada.
Trudeau, on his part, said India and Canada not only have a rich history but a set of values that encourage a natural friendship. “As Canada looks to diversify its own economy and looks for new opportunities to do business beyond its boundaries, India is a natural partner and a trusted friend for commercial cooperation,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau and his family were given a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in Delhi, where Modi, President Ram Nath Kovind and a few Cabinet ministers received him.
Modi did not welcome Trudeau – as he did other world leaders – when he arrived in India five days ago. On Thursday, Modi shared a welcome message on Twitter, saying he looked forward to holding talks with his Canadian counterpart to strengthen relations between India and Canada. “I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries,” Modi said on Twitter.
Before the bilateral meeting with Modi, Trudeau met India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during which they discussed ways to “strengthen and deepen” India’s partnership with Canada.
Modi not welcoming Trudeau on his arrival has been perceived as a snub for the Canadian prime minister’s alleged support for Sikh separatist Khalistani groups in his country. On Thursday, the matter escalated after convicted Khalistani militant Jaspal Atwal was invited to a dinner with Trudeau in New Delhi. The invitation was later rescinded after the media questioned Trudeau over his soft stand on pro-Khalistan groups in Canada.
While the Indian government said it was trying to ascertain how Atwal, who lives in Canada, was issued a visa, the Canadian government said it was an oversight on their part.
Trudeau told reporters in New Delhi that his government had taken this incident very seriously and admitted that Atwal should not have been invited. Later, Canadian lawmaker Randeep S Sarai issued a statement, saying he was responsible for inviting Atwal to the reception dinner. “I alone facilitated his request to attend this important event,” Sarai said. “I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions.”