Trudeau's global sensation comes crashing down in India

Trudeaumania hits a snag.

(This column originally appeared in the Toronto Sun)

By: Candice Malcolm

The Liberal Party of Canada’s crass partisanship and dubious vote-seeking schemes are catching up with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his official state visit to India.

Trudeau is used to being met with acclaim and international fanfare during his many trips abroad. But his reception in India has been strikingly different.

He’s received a cold-shoulder from his counterparts in India’s central government. Prime Minister Narenda Modi, known for his gracious hospitality and warm bear hugs when greeting foreign dignitaries, has entirely ignored the Canadian PM.

Modi did not show up at the airport to welcome Trudeau, he didn’t accompany the Canadian delegation to his home state of Gujarat, and he hasn’t posted a greeting message on social media to welcome Trudeau to India, as he’s done for other visiting leaders.

International media picked up on the snub, forcing the Canadian media to look past the photos ops and colourful costumes and realize the scope of Trudeau’s problems in India.

What’s driving it?

Trudeau and members of his Liberal cabinet have been accused of playing footsies with Sikh extremists and separatists in Canada.

While trying to win favour with the influential Sikh lobby, a highly-organized and vote-rich community that helps Liberals get elected in key ridings in Vancouver and Toronto, Trudeau and his officials are accused of sympathizing with a radical cause championed by a small minority within the Canadian Sikh community.

In April 2017, Trudeau attended a Khalsa Day parade in Toronto where he rubbed elbows with separatists who want an independent Sikh country carved out of Northern India, known as Khalistan. The parade featured shrines and posters of Sikh militants and terrorists, and Trudeau spoke in front of a Khalistan separatist flag.

Our allies in India have taken notice, and many are angry over Trudeau’s pandering to extremists and meddling in India’s internal political affairs.

After all, how would Canadians feel if a foreign head of state was seen as promoting the FLQ – a terrorist organization responsible for bombings and murders in pursuit of Quebec independence in the 1960s? Canadians would be rightfully upset and suspicious, as many of our Indian friends are of Trudeau and his Liberal delegation.

Trudeau has been forced to play his hand, and wisely recommitted to Canada’s support for a united India. This is a good first step; it may, however, be too little too late when it comes to promoting Canada’s relationship with India, the world’s largest democracy and our closest ally in Asia.

Thanks to this diplomatic blunder, Trudeau’s carefully crafted optics are backfiring on him.

What were supposed to be a series of photo-ops designed to go viral online, featuring the Trudeau clan dressed from head-to-toe in traditional Indian-style clothing, now just look like an over-the-top family vacation – paid for by the Canadian taxpayer.

It doesn’t help that Trudeau’s eight-day agenda in India includes only half a day of official bilateral meetings, tacked on to the tail end of his trip. The rest of his schedule is chock full of partisan activities designed to make inroads with the Indian diaspora in Canada for the 2019 election.

Justin Trudeau travelled to India 35 years ago, while his father Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau visited on official government business. Trudeau noted that during that visit, the elder Trudeau did not accompany the family on sight-seeing excursions or photo ops. He was too busy working.

Too bad the younger Trudeau doesn’t have that commitment to Canada.