Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi (r) and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak during a joint press statement at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Feb. 23. Trudeau and his family were on a week-long official trip to India. (Money Sharma/AFP/Getty Images)
In a subtle message to the Trudeau government over its perceived soft-stand on the Khalistan issue, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said, Feb. 23, that those challenging India’s sovereignty cannot be tolerated, even as India and Canada vowed to jointly combat terror threats, including from Sikh groups such as Babbar Khalsa.
After holding extensive talks with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau, Modi, at a joint press event, also asserted that there cannot be any space for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism.
A document on ‘framework for cooperation on countering terrorism and violent extremism,’ finalized by India’s National Security Advisor and the National Security and Intelligence Advisor of Canada, was also released after the Modi-Trudeau meet.
“They committed to work together to neutralize the threats emanating from terrorist groups such as al-Qaeda, ISIS, the Haqqani Network, LeT, JeM, Babbar Khalsa International, and the International Sikh Youth Federation,” the document said.
While Babbar Khalsa International is a Sikh militant group based in Pakistan and which reportedly operates in Canada, Germany, the UK and some parts of India, the International Sikh Youth Federation is a proscribed outfit that aims to establish an independent homeland for the Sikhs of India.
Mincing no words, Modi also said, “There should be no space for those misusing faith for political goals and sowing seeds of division. Those who challenge sovereignty, unity and integrity of our countries cannot be tolerated.”
Later, a joint statement said the two leaders reaffirmed the “breadth and scope” of Canada-India relations, based on the fundamental principle of respect for sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of the two countries.
The statement as well as Modi’s remarks come in the backdrop of Canada’s perceived pro-Khalistan approach, criticized by many including Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Trudeau’s maiden India visit has been shrouded by controversies, including an invitation to convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal for the Feb. 22 dinner by Canadian High Commissioner to India. The invitation was later withdrawn.
After the talks, the two sides inked six pacts to boost cooperation in key areas including energy, information technology, trade, science and technology.
“Recognizing that terrorism, violent extremism and radicalization present acute challenges to global peace, stability and prosperity, the leaders resolved to combat terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations,” the joint statement said.
Welcoming the bilateral framework on anti-terror cooperation, the leaders also called for bringing terrorists to justice and holding accountable states sponsoring terrorism, including cross-border terror, in an apparent reference to Pakistan.
“They further emphasized that no country should allow its territory to be used for terrorist and violent extremist activities,” the statement said. The leaders agreed to expand security cooperation through the NSA-level dialog.
Modi said they reviewed the entire gamut of ties and identified ways to further strengthen them.
“We have decided to strengthen our defense cooperation.
Terrorism and extremism are threats to democratic and pluralistic countries like India and Canada. It is important to come together to deal with these forces,” he said at the joint press event.
Trudeau said as part of expanding the bilateral relationship with India, Canada will focus on security, including increased cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism and peacekeeping among others.
Referring to Trudeau’s visits to various parts of India in last six days, Modi said, “I am confident, Prime Minister Trudeau must have realized enthusiasm and friendship towards Canada in India. He must have realized India’s diversity and liveliness of our democracy.”
The joint statement said Modi and Trudeau welcomed the continuation of uranium exports from Canada for peaceful use of civil nuclear power and agreed to expand the ongoing mutually-beneficial civil nuclear cooperation.
Trudeau also said, “Canada and India share a special friendship, and the agreements that we reached today will grow our middle class, create new opportunities for Canadians and Indians alike, and deepen the bonds.”
The two leaders supported bolstering regional connectivity through transparent development of infrastructure and use of responsible debt financing while ensuring respect for sovereignty and territorial integrity, remarks seen as a message to China over its one-belt-one-road project.
Modi and Trudeau also reaffirmed the importance of the freedom of navigation and over-flight throughout the Indo-Pacific region, in accordance with international law, including the rights and jurisdiction of states under UNCLOS (United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea), a clear reference to China’s increasing military assertiveness in the Indo-Pacific region.
On trade and investment ties, Modi said instructions have been issued to negotiators from both the sides to redouble their efforts to finalize the proposed Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement.
Diversity, Key to Resilience and Success: Trudeau
Diversity is a key to resilience and success, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said, Feb. 24, and emphasized that empowering women would help in shaping business communities and politics for the better.
Addressing the United Nations Young Changemakers Conclave 2018, Trudeau also laid emphasis on sustainable development and said a strong economy cannot be built unless the environment is protected.
He said the G-7 meeting, to be held in Canada in June this year, will have two extra themes on gender’ and oceans and plastic.
The theme on gender will focus on empowerment of women while oceans and plastic will discuss the menace of plastic, he said.
The G7 comprises Canada, the UK, the US, France, Italy, Germany and Japan.
Responding to a question on whether he would like to invest in bitcoin, Trudeau said he was “not convinced” about it.
Speaking on diversity, Trudeau said it creates new solutions and systems which are more multi-layered, do much better than mono-cultures.
Diversity, pluralism brings together different experiences, different background and different stories. That matters. Nature, itself, understands that diversity is a key to resilience, success, he said.
The Canadian prime minister often speaks about the diversity, multi-culturalism and pluralism in his country.
Pushing for empowerment of women, he said, “When we empower (them), women grow. This will help in shaping business communities and politics for the better.”
Trudeau, who calls himself a feminist, has 50 percent men and 50 percent women in his Cabinet.
Responding to a student’s query on how does one enter politics, Trudeau said one of the most important thing is to have the ability to mobilize people and make an impact on the community around them.