Rarely have official visits to India- especially those by a country’s premier figure such as a Prime Minister- generated such egregious and polarised views as that of Justin Trudeau’s just-concluded visit to India. Particularly in the eyes of the media on both sides. Chances are, at this point of time, if you happen to pick out any mainstream daily or publication or log onto a blog on contemporary and political affairs, then there are more possibilities of running into terms like ‘snubbed’, ‘cold reception’, ‘excessive Bollywood-style attire’ (all of which target the Canadian PM) than finding socialite-gossip in the gossip column of a newspapers’ magazine.
But that said, there is always a window of criticism to enter- even if uninvitingly- where the proportion of ‘official’ fabric consisting in an official tour is rather slim. For the most part of his week-long India tour, Justin Trudeau- a suave, very contemporary era political luminary who could be likened to a Hollywood A-lister spent time in Mumbai and Agra and other spots that belong to the popular and socio-cultural milieu of the country. The chunk of political alignments, discussions, strategic business decision-making, one’s gotten to know, were rather thin or light-weighted during the entirety of the visit.
So did this enforce a view wherein we found Trudeau’s visit being labelled symbolic in conception and orientation instead of being strategic?
Therefore, implicit in Trudeau’s vital discussions, whether with his Indian counterpart or the all-important meet with Punjab CM Captain Amrinder Singh regarding the misconception of Canada’s support to Sikh extremist outfits have been a sense of cold reception that the Canadian PM was thought of having received. So should that be a reason to come down heavily on a political leader whose country has, for years, been home to several hundreds of thousands of Indians, in particular, Sikhs, who form a vast majority of 1.4 million Indians residing in Canada? People took to social media criticising Canada’s lack of measured, cohesive approach toward tackling extremist terror outfits that pose a threat to India in a manner where one sends down a barrage of bullets from a point blank range.
Surely, India is slated to feel concern, having seen a number of political leaders eliminated by terror miscreants, where Mahatma Gandhi, Rajeev Gandhi and Indira Gandhi stand.
But should the inherent fear, stemming from a disconsolate chapter in history pose a sufficient reason to clamp down on Canada? This wasn’t the only criticism on the Indian side. That Trudeau wore, not only obviously but believably in a bid to score with the Indian diaspora back home, traditional Indian outfits- colorful or Bollywoodian that they might’ve been was shredded to pieces by self-acclaimed social critics who thrive on the contemporary culture of trolls, memes, measuring success with retweets that a post on social media fetches. It ought to be asked why weren’t the likes of Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping criticised or mocked, the way Trudeau was when inarguably two of the biggest political heavyweights in the world visited India in the BRICS Summit of 2016, wearing colorful Nehru jackets? Does wearing one’s traditional outfit signify disrespect or an attempt to engage with the rich cultural legacy of a country; what was the media thinking?
What became of jacket diplomacy then? What purpose would such mocking serve? That said, Canada’s concern on Modi not breaking official protocol to receive Trudeau, like he did in the case of Netanyahu is completely unfounded as a glaring fact was conveniently ignored. The Indian and Israeli Prime Minister happen to be close friends.
That no one cares to remember that PM Modi didn’t receive Xi Jinping either when he arrived in India points to a case of ignorance at convenience. the other hand, if Canada has to manifest great bi-lateral relations in India, then it has to happen with official visits.
But all that said, a thing ought to be asked. Are we being rather too critical in overly underplaying a visit by a revered and truth be told- very popular political luminary? Aren’t we to draw a thing or two about the positives that came from a visit that if not for anything else, laid an initial foundation to trigger a long-standing bi-lateral relationship between the two countries. Why is sufficient focus not being placed on perhaps the greatest positive that emerged from the meet: India and Canada’s joint statement on terrorism, wherein both parties agreed to working more closely than ever before on mitigating and tackling terrorism? If not for more, one must draw heart from the fact that both countries’ joint stand against terror prompted leading Indian media to report with great enthusiasm that “India and Canada pull back the visit from its brink.”
Thankfully, some rattled brains perhaps began picking up scattered pieces that shouldn’t have fallen in the first place by suggesting, “Canada’s Tough Stand on Terror Soothes India”.
Another great affirmative that stemmed from Trudeau’s crucial visit is that the National Security Advisors of both countries shall be in regular communication henceforth in combatting terrorism, an issue that India is just in dubbing an explicit threat and one against which Canada will do all it can, according to Trudeau, to turn its back against. Delivering inconsequential verbatim and over-analysing political happenings is a good measure to fill political fodder for magazines and newspapers. But it takes a rationalist to analyse positives that can be instrumental in forging a strong future relationship.