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Trudeau addresses concerns of foreign interference with India’s Modi, highlighting importance

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says he raised the issue of foreign interference with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to New Delhi, as Canada prepares to launch a public inquiry into the matter.

“Diaspora Canadians make up a huge proportion of our country, and they should be able to express themselves and make their choices without interference from any of the many countries that we know are involved in interference challenges,” Mr. Trudeau said on Sept. 10 in his post-G20 press conference.

The prime minister said he had delivered the same message on foreign interference to Mr. Modi that he gives to all of Canada’s partners and allies and to other countries of concern.

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He said this message entails “respect for the rule of law,” for the “integrity and sovereignty of democratic institutions and processes,” and the “respect for the sovereign choices of citizens in an of a given country to choose their future.”

The Liberal government announced last week the inquiry into foreign interference is being launched this month and will look at the actions of China, Russia, other states, and non-state actors.
India is not specifically mentioned, by Mr. Trudeau’s National Security and Intelligence Advisor Jody Thomas named the country as a perpetrator in June.

Mr. Trudeau was completing a tour of Asia on Sept. 10 which saw him visit Indonesia and Singapore before going to India to attend the G20 Summit.

Before going to New Delhi there were questions of whether Mr. Trudeau would even meet with Mr. Modi, in the context of trade talks being put on hold and diplomatic tensions over Sikh activism in Canada.

The two leaders did talk, albeit for a short 15-minute meeting on the G20 margins.

Strained Relations

Official statements from both sides noted the leaders raised the issue of the rule of law and democratic values, but Mr. Modi’s statement contained strong language critical of Canada.

The readout from India’s Ministry of External Affairs says Mr. Modi conveyed New Delhi’s “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada.”

“They are promoting secessionism and inciting violence against Indian diplomats, damaging diplomatic premises, and threatening the Indian community in Canada and their places of worship,” said the statement.

Protests over the summer by Sikh activists in Canada, who seek to create an independent Khalistan in India, have been criticized by New Delhi. One in June had a float depicting the assassination of former Indian prime minister Indira Ghandi by her Sikh bodyguards, and promotional material for another event in July blamed India for the killing of a Sikh leader in British Columbia.

The harsh statement from India isn’t the only sign from the trip that relations are strained between the leaders, with Mr. Trudeau reportedly pulling his hand away from Mr. Modi’s during a wreath-laying ceremony. The Canadian prime minister was also absent from Mr. Modi’s leaders’ dinner.

“I’ll let you read into what you like,” Mr. Trudeau told reporters about the handshake controversy. And he said not attending the leaders’ dinner was because of “scheduling.”

Later Mr. Trudeau was unable to depart India due to his plane being grounded over technical issues.

Before the official visit to India, Canadian government officials said trade talks with India had been put on pause, but no reason was given.

“All we’re doing at this point is taking a reflection, to take stock of where we are,” International Trade Minister Mary Ng said on Sept. 5.


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