Michael Higgins: Trudeau outdoes himself with another disastrous India trip

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, left, takes part in a bilateral meeting with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the G20 Summit in New Delhi, on Sept. 10. © Provided by National Post

The best that can be said after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s gaffe-prone trip to India is: thank God that’s over.

The one thing that the prime minister is truly masterful at is the grip-and-grin: shake hands with world leader, smile for camera, fake sincerity. The fact that Trudeau couldn’t even accomplish that single task reveals what an absolute shambles his visit was.

The Canadian Press reported that during a wreath-laying ceremony at Mahatma Gandhi’s cremation site, Trudeau deliberately avoided a close encounter with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

“Modi tried to grasp Trudeau’s hand during a wreath laying ceremony, but Trudeau pulled away,” reported CP . “Trudeau, who shook Modi’s hand, was the only leader to pull away from the longer handhold.”

What accounted for this extraordinary behaviour? “I’ll let you read into it what you like,” was all Trudeau would say at a press conference at the end of his visit.

In a similar mistake-laden trip in 2018, commentators noticed that Modi failed to give Trudeau one of his customary bear-hug greetings until seven days into the Canadian leader’s visit. “Trudeau finally received an all-important hug,” reported CNN .

There were no bear hugs this time. In fact, an official photo of Trudeau and Modi sitting together after a brief meeting revealed a frosty distance and sullen looks.

The whole trip was characterized by Trudeau’s apparent determination to be undiplomatic and positively petulant.

Trudeau failed to attend the official G20 gala dinner and missed the launch of the Global Biofuels Alliance, an initiative of the Indian prime minister. Why? Trudeau won’t say, but his bizarre antics led to the Indian media having a field day.

The Tribune of India described Trudeau as “a slightly forlorn figure,” and talked of “his loneliness.”

“Trudeau is overstaying his tepid welcome,” read a piece in India Today .

The Hindustan Times said Trudeau had been given the “cold shoulder,” and reported that after his plane had broken down, the prime minister chose to stay in his hotel room rather than seek other official engagements with Indian officials.

There are reasons for Canada and India to have tense relations, but no reason whatsoever for Trudeau to behave so rancorously.

Days before the India trip, Canada announced it was unexpectedly suspending trade talks with India.

In June, Jody Thomas, Trudeau’s national security adviser, accused India of being one of the countries behind foreign interference in Canada.

For its part, India is angry at Canada for allowing “anti-India activities of extremist elements” in the country.

An official statement from the Indian government after a meeting between Trudeau and Modi said those elements were “promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship.”

At his press conference, Trudeau responded by saying that Canada would defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and peaceful protests.

He added, “I think on the issue of the community, it is important to remember that the actions of the few do not represent the entire community or Canada. The flip side of it, we also highlighted the importance of respecting the rule of law and we did talk about foreign interference.”

These tensions may account for why Trudeau was not granted a bilateral meeting with Modi, unlike other world leaders. Instead, Trudeau was only allowed to meet Modi on the sidelines of the G20.

At his press conference, Trudeau was asked about his strained relationship with Modi. “There’s always a lot of work to do and we will continue to do it,” was his reply.

For Trudeau, official trips to India always seem to be troublesome.

When he visited in 2018 , he was attacked for wearing Bollywood-style costumes, was avoided by senior politicians and came under fire after a convicted terrorist was invited to an official Canadian dinner.

Yet all these embarrassments are nothing compared to Trudeau’s blatant hypocrisy on foreign policy.

“This week, I continued to advocate for collective action to hold (Russian President Vladimir) Putin accountable and to secure a just and durable peace that starts with Russian’s immediate withdrawal from Ukraine,” said Trudeau. “People like Putin mistake being reasonable for being weak. Well, he is dead wrong.”

These are fine words but are not matched by actions, as many of our allies supporting Ukraine have noted. Canada is nowhere near meeting its commitment to NATO of allocating two per cent of GDP to defence spending.

Pressure to meet that target has increased with the war in Ukraine. But as The Economist recently noted , “Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Canada’s position as a penny-pinching outlier has become more embarrassing for the country.”

When it comes to the world stage, there seems to be no end to the embarrassment Trudeau can cause Canada.

National Post

Source: National Post