From 'snub' to scandal, Trudeau's India visit sparks outrage

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's week-long trip to India has gone from bad to worse.Already dogged by ...

Posted: Feb 22, 2018 11:54 PM
Updated: Feb 22, 2018 11:54 PM

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's week-long trip to India has gone from bad to worse.

Already dogged by bad press and speculation that the prime minister had been "snubbed" by the Indian government, on Thursday Canadian officials were again on the back-foot, after it was revealed a Sikh extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian politician had been invited to dine with Trudeau at the Canadian High Commissioner's residence in New Delhi.

Canada forced to rescind invitation to Sikh militant to dine with Trudeau in New Delhi

Trudeau's week-long India visit has been plagued by bad press

The official invitation, which was later withdrawn, has sparked outrage in India, where the issue of Sikh separatism remains a highly charged and emotive topic.

"Obviously we take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation. As soon as we found out, we rescinded the invitation immediately," said Trudeau during a gathering of reporters on Thursday.

The individual at the center of the controversy is Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian national of Indian heritage, who in 1987 was sentenced to 20 years in a Canadian court for his part in the attempted murder of a visiting Indian state minister.

Complicating matters, multiple Canadian media outlets also carried photographs showing Atwal standing next to Sophie Trudeau, the wife of the Canadian Prime Minister, at a reception held in Mumbai Tuesday.

It is unclear how Atwal, a known militant, managed to obtain a visa to enter into India, or why he was seen traveling with the Trudeau entourage.

Atwal has denied that he is part of the official Canadian government delegation and said he came to India for business, according to Canadian news site the Province.

Speaking to reporters during a weekly press briefing, Raveesh Kumar, the spokesperson for India's Ministry of External Affairs, said he was unable to explain the apparent oversight.

"I can't say immediately how that happened. There are different ways of people coming into India, we are ascertaining details from our mission. We will have to see how this happened" said Kumar.

"The fact that we issued a visa to him, it also means that he's not an Indian national."

A spokesperson for the Canadian High Commission in India declined CNN's request for further comment and referred CNN to the prime minister's public statement.

Atwal was one of four men who ambushed and shot Malkiat Singh Sidhu, a then-member of Punjab's cabinet, who was visiting Canada for a relative's wedding, badly wounding him.

In the sentencing, the judge called the crime "an act of terrorism in order to advance a cause."

According to CBC News, one of several Canadian news organizations to report on the story, at the time of the attack, Atwal was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, a banned terrorist group in the US, Canada, the UK, and India.

Perceived 'snub'

Even before Thursday's revelations, Trudeau's week-long trip has generated negative press, due in part to his perceived "snub" by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who he has yet to meet.

According to an official agenda released by the Indian government, Trudeau, who arrived in India on Saturday, is due to meet with Modi tomorrow in Delhi. But that hasn't stopped speculation in local media, in both India and Canada, linking Trudeau's reception -- or lack thereof -- to his alleged tacit endorsement of Sikh separatists.

Canada is home to about 468,000 Sikhs, comprising 1.4% of its population. A small but influential number of those Sikhs support the idea of Khalistan, or the demand for a separate state for Indian Sikhs.

The separatist issue goes back decades in India, with one of the most important clashes occurring in 1984 when Indian Army soldiers stormed the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Sikhs' holiest site, in an effort to capture separatist leaders. In response, two Sikh bodyguards assassinated India's then leader, Indira Gandhi.

In 1985, the violence spilled over into Canada, when Sikh separatists bombed an Air India plane that had taken off from Toronto airport, killing all 329 people aboard, including numerous Canadians of Indian descent. The only person who was convicted in the bombing was released in 2017 by Canadian courts after serving two decades in jail.

Analysts point to Trudeau's appearance at a Sikh event in Toronto last year, where separatist flags and posters depicting an extremist Sikh leader killed in the 1984 Indian Army operation were displayed, as a particular area of contention.

Speaking to CNN Wednesday, India's former ambassador to Canada Vishnu Prakash said that Sikh separatism was a matter of greater concern inside of India.

"It goes to the core of India's unity and integrity and that is an issue that needs to be sorted out between the two countries (Canada and India)," said Prakash, who described the event Trudeau attended in Toronto last year as "an out and out Khalistani platform."

Trudeau visited the current Chief Minister of Punjab on Wednesday and reaffirmed his support for a united India.

"We will always stand against violent extremism, but we understand that diversity of views is one of the great strengths of Canada," he said during the visit.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 8 p.m. ET)

Confirmed Cases: 32078

Reported Deaths: 2004
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9268539
Lake3320168
Cass15826
Allen130966
St. Joseph120534
Hendricks113067
Hamilton111592
Johnson1086104
Elkhart105728
Madison58258
Porter49021
Bartholomew48133
Clark46138
LaPorte41522
Tippecanoe3753
Jackson3671
Howard36519
Delaware35735
Hancock32127
Shelby31521
Floyd31438
Boone28835
Morgan26224
Vanderburgh2482
Montgomery23117
White2268
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Grant19121
Noble18921
Harrison18721
Dubois1852
Greene16724
Warrick16426
Dearborn16421
Henry1619
Monroe16011
Vigo1477
Lawrence14423
Miami1391
Putnam1337
Jennings1274
Orange12422
Scott1183
Ripley1126
Franklin1068
Kosciusko941
Carroll922
Daviess8216
Steuben802
Marshall761
Newton7410
Wabash722
Wayne715
Fayette684
LaGrange602
Jasper581
Washington521
Fulton471
Rush452
Jay440
Randolph433
Jefferson411
Whitley402
Pulaski390
Clay391
Owen341
Brown331
Sullivan321
Starke313
DeKalb311
Perry260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton251
Benton250
Wells240
Crawford230
Blackford211
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Spencer171
Posey170
Parke170
Gibson142
Ohio130
Warren121
Adams121
Vermillion90
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0154

Illinois Coronavirus Cases

(Widget updates once daily at 7 p.m. CT)

Confirmed Cases: 113195

Reported Deaths: 4923
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Cook738193354
Lake7767250
DuPage7290340
Kane5866153
Will5238258
Winnebago199351
McHenry145268
St. Clair101773
Kankakee80242
Kendall72719
Rock Island63922
Champaign5697
Madison54056
Boone40716
Sangamon33226
DeKalb3313
Randolph2593
Jackson22810
McLean21210
Stephenson1952
Ogle1922
Macon18819
Peoria1858
Clinton17816
Out of IL1771
Union1417
LaSalle14013
Whiteside13310
Iroquois1314
Unassigned1200
Coles1159
Warren1140
Jefferson10116
Knox950
Monroe9211
Grundy892
McDonough835
Lee761
Tazewell683
Cass670
Henry670
Williamson541
Marion500
Jasper457
Adams441
Macoupin421
Perry410
Pulaski400
Montgomery391
Vermilion391
Morgan341
Christian334
Livingston312
Douglas280
Jo Daviess270
Fayette203
Ford201
Jersey201
Washington180
Woodford182
Mason170
Menard170
Shelby161
Bureau151
Hancock150
Mercer150
Carroll132
Franklin120
Piatt120
Crawford110
Fulton110
Bond101
Brown100
Clark100
Cumberland100
Logan100
Moultrie100
Schuyler100
Wayne91
Alexander80
Henderson80
Johnson70
Massac70
Saline70
Effingham61
Greene50
Marshall50
De Witt40
Lawrence40
Richland30
Stark30
Clay20
Edwards20
Gallatin20
Hamilton20
Wabash20
White20
Calhoun10
Hardin10
Pike10
Pope10
Putnam10
Edgar00
Terre Haute
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
Robinson
Clear
68° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 68°
Indianapolis
Broken Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Rockville
Broken Clouds
65° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 65°
Casey
Clear
67° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 67°
Brazil
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 65°
Feels Like: 70°
Marshall
Scattered Clouds
70° wxIcon
Hi: 87° Lo: 66°
Feels Like: 70°
No Major Changes
WTHI Planner
WTHI Temps
WTHI Radar

WTHI Events