Justin Trudeau's India visit deemed a 'slow-moving train wreck' amid claims he was 'snubbed'

Goh Dan Qing
Key Points
  • Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is visiting India this week.
  • There's much talk that he's been "snubbed" by government officials, and the local media has given him less coverage than some expected.
  • Both Indian and Canadian sides dismissed the suggestion of any diplomatic cold shoulder.
All flash and no show for Canada's Trudeau in India?
All flash and no show for Canada's Trudeau in India?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is this week visiting India, but the young politician — known for rock-star treatment on the international stage — is not getting much of a reception in the South Asian giant.

Media in the country has had its attention occupied by the scandal over the Punjab National Bank fraud case, and top officials have an ax to grind with the Canadian, experts said.

"Mr. Trudeau, I must, say is barely even in the news here," Vivek Dehejia, a resident senior fellow at the IDFC Institute, an India-based think tank.

International and Canadian outlets, however, have been making news out of a potential "snub."

National Post tweet: The Post's #frontpage for Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2018.

According to many commentators in the media, the Indian government is wary of Trudeau for his alleged ties to advocates for a separate Sikh homeland, called Khalistan, in the Punjab region.

In fact, Canada's National Post notes that Trudeau's cabinet has had four Sikhs in it, including one who an Indian official labeled a sympathizer to the separatists. The Canadian leader, the National Post says, once even bragged that his cabinet had more Sikhs in it than Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's.

"[The trip] is best described as a slow-moving train wreck ... Very little substance has come out of it and very little actually will emerge from this visit apart from some nice photo ops," Dehejia told CNBC on Wednesday.

Dehejia said he believes Trudeau's visit was orchestrated to appease the significant Sikh population in Canada, making the international trip essentially about domestic politics. Trudeau's schedule for his visit to India has been scrutinized for including only half-a-day of official state engagements in New Delhi.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau along with his wife Sophie Gregoire pay their respects at the Sikh Golden Temple in Amritsar on February 21, 2018.
Narinder Nanu | AFP | Getty Images

For its part, India's government has denied snubbing Trudeau, with official sources telling The Times of India that it was Canada that asked for official engagement to take place at the end of the trip.

The paper said Trudeau was willing to address "the strong perception in India that Trudeau's Liberal government has failed to rein in pro-Khalistan elements active in Canada."

The Canadian side, meanwhile, has also denied any diplomatic cold shoulder, with Trudeau telling a news channel that he'd met Modi "very recently."

Either way, Dehejia said, Trudeau isn't making the kinds of waves in India that he may be used to.

"Trudeau is used to being seen as a rock star, as being on the front pages. He's made a couple of page-three appearances because of his very nice Indian ethnic wear and his very photogenic family. But apart from that, really he's not playing much here," Dehejia explained.