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With Trudeau by his side, PM Modi speaks of primacy of India’s unity and integrity

India and Canada signed six pacts to step up their ties in various spheres on a day Modi greeted Trudeau with a hug.

india Updated: Feb 23, 2018 23:58 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya and Jayanth Jacob
Anirudh Bhattacharyya and Jayanth Jacob
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Justin Trudeau,Trudeau India visit,Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi with his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday spoke of the primacy of India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity after a two-hour meeting with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in which the countries named Sikh insurgent groups Babbar Khalsa International and Sikh Youth Federation along with Islamic State, al Qaeda and Pakistan-based outfits such as Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed.

India and Canada signed six pacts to step up their ties in various spheres on a day Modi greeted Trudeau with a hug — and subsequently delivered a pointed message at the perceived soft approach of the Canadian government towards the Khalistan issue.With Trudeau at his side, Modi said in a media statement delivered in Hindi: “There should be no place for those who misuse religion for political goals. Challenges to the sovereignty, unity and integrity of our nations cannot be tolerated.”

That remark was seen as a statement directed at the Canadian leadership and the Liberal Party government that Trudeau heads, and which has often been accused of pandering to Sikh separatists. The issue has been a major and recurring irritant in bilateral relations of late and has overshadowed Trudeau’s first state visit to India.

India and Canada adopted a Framework for Cooperation on Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism, which national security advisor Ajit Doval and his Canadian counterpart Daniel Jean were tasked to work on. In a first-of- its-kind statement, the two sides said they are “committed to work together to neutralise the threats emanating from terrorist groups such as al Qaida, ISIS, the Haqqani Network, Lashkar e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Babbar Khalsa International, and the International Sikh Youth Federation.”

For New Delhi, the clubbing of banned Sikh insurgent groups with global terrorist outfits, including ones based out of Pakistan that target India, is a significant achievement.

The two sides decided to further develop exchanges and facilitate “effective cooperation in the fields of security, finance, justice, and law enforcement, including, where appropriate, at the operational level,” as per the framework agreement.

The joint statement after the meeting also found enough mention of terrorism and “emphasised that no country should allow its territory to be used for terrorist and violent extremist activities”.

A ministry official said that while Khalistan had not been referred in any of the statements issued after the meeting, India’s concern found explicit expression in the naming of these banned groups. The issue of pro-Khalistan activism in Canada, often due to the soft approach of local politicians including some in Trudeau’s government, was a focus of the discussions between the two prime ministers, another Indian official said.

“First of all, we agreed on strengthening our security cooperation. Terrorism and separatism are dangers to democratic, pluralistic societies like India and Canada. It is important for us to come together to counter such forces,” Modi said.

While six agreements were signed in the presence of the two prime ministers, neither the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement nor the Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreement were inked. However, Modi said negotiators had been asked for “redouble” their efforts in finalising these pacts that are necessary to give the economic partnership an “institutional framework.”

Trudeau stressed the need to expand India-Canada trade and commercial ties. “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 said.

Trudeau met external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj prior to his summit encounter with Modi. Later, all six ministers accompanying Trudeau -- including Indo-Canadian ministers Navdeep Bains, Harjit Sajjan, Amarjeet Sohi and Bardish Chagger -- also met with Modi.

Trudeau has invited Modi for a return visit to Canada “at an early date”; an invitation that Modi “accepted”.

First Published: Feb 23, 2018 21:06 IST