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India to raise concerns on Sikh radicals during Justin Trudeau’s visit

India has pointedly raised its concerns over the activities in Canada of radical Sikh groups espousing the cause of Khalistan.

india Updated: Feb 16, 2018 23:37 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Justin Trudeau,Narendra Modi,Trudeau India visit
Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau in a meeting in Davos in January.(PTI File)

Top security officials from India and Canada have held a series of meetings ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s week-long visit starting Saturday, during which India is expected to raise concerns about a spike in the activities of Sikh radicals in Canada.

The national security advisers of the two countries met in New Delhi this week while the deputy NSAs met in January to discuss counter-terror cooperation and regional and international security issues as part of their overarching security cooperation.

The bilateral joint working group on terrorism also met in New Delhi about two weeks ago, Canadian diplomatic sources said on Friday. While the sources declined to go into details, it is believed India has pointedly raised its concerns over the activities in Canada of radical Sikh groups espousing the cause of Khalistan.

As an acknowledgement of these concerns, Trudeau is expected to affirm his government’s belief in a “strong and united” India in the course of public remarks during his visit.

Trudeau’s visit, which will take him to Agra, Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Mumbai and New Delhi, will focus on expanding cooperation in key areas such as trade and investment, and defence and security cooperation. The Canadian side is expected to make a strong pitch for the early conclusion of negotiations on a Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) to shore up sizeable investments in India.

Though negotiators from both sides have been in touch over the past year on the FIPA, the Indian side has indicated the investment pact should be concluded once both sides finalise negotiations on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), the Canadian sources said.

“We are in the midst of negotiations on CEPA with India, our trade negotiators last met about a week ago to continue to advance the discussions,” a source said.

India was amenable to some forward movement on the FIPA if the Canadian side were to indicate greater acknowledgement of New Delhi’s concerns regarding the activities of Sikh radicals, official sources said. However, this now appears unlikely as Canada-based Sikh groups had lobbied the Trudeau government over the past week not to give in on this issue, the sources added.

With Canadian investments in India increasing by about $15 billion in recent years, Canadian investors, including pension fund companies, believe the flow of funds from Canada will slow down in the absence of a FIPA, the Canadian sources said.

“The opportunities can increase if a FIPA is in place because risk premiums can be adjusted to reflect that agreement,” a source said. The sources added that the FIPA and CEPA would be “on the radar” during Trudeau’s visit.

With Canada already selling uranium to India, the sources said “new areas of cooperation in the nuclear space” will be discussed during the visit. Canada also strongly supports India’s entry into the Nuclear Suppliers Group, they said.

Trudeau, who will be accompanied by his wife Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and their three children, will visit the Taj Mahal on February 18 and the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad the following day. He will visit Akshardham temple in Gandhi Nagar and participate in an event at IIM-Ahmedabad.

On February 20, he will travel to Mumbai for meetings with top business leaders and representatives of the film industry to pitch Canada as a destination for shoots and post-production.

Trudeau will visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar on February 21 and the Jama Masjid and a cricket ground in New Delhi the next day. He will also address a gathering of Indian and Canadian business leaders on February 22.

He will hold talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on February 23 after a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. He will also have a rountable dialogue with CEOs the same day. On February 24, he will address a conference of young change-makers before wrapping up his visit.

First Published: Feb 16, 2018 19:41 IST