Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian delegation are stuck in New Delhi after his aircraft experienced technical issues, an inauspicious end to a trip that included criticism from the Indian government.
Trudeau, government staff and journalists traveling with the prime minister were set to leave India on Sunday night after the Group of 20 leaders’ summit. It’s unclear when and how they will be able to depart the country. “These issues are not fixable overnight, our delegation will be staying in India until alternate arrangements are made,” a statement from Trudeau’s office said.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi leveled criticism at Canada for allegedly allowing Sikh secessionist groups to operate in the country. Modi conveyed “strong concerns about continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada,” India’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement after a sideline conversation between the two leaders.
“The nexus of such forces with organized crime, drug syndicates and human trafficking should be a concern for Canada as well,” the ministry said. “It is essential for the two countries to cooperate in dealing with such threats.”
Relations between the two countries have been tense, and Trudeau and Modi did not hold a formal bilateral meeting at the summit. But during their brief conversation, they discussed foreign interference and “respect for the rule of law,” Trudeau said.
Separatist groups seeking a homeland for Sikhs — a minority community in India — have organized a referendum in Canada asking the diaspora there whether regions of India in which their community is in the majority should be independent.
India has characterized a June protest outside its High Commission in Ottawa — the equivalent of an embassy — as an “attack” and its anti-terror agency is investigating the incident.
Last week, Canada launched a public inquiry into foreign interference in recent national elections, focusing on China, Russia and other state and non-state actors. Trudeau’s national security adviser, Jody Thomas, has said that India is a major source of foreign meddling in Canada.
There have also been long-simmering allegations from Indian officials that Canada has been too comfortable with Sikh separatists who want an independent Punjab carved out of northwestern India.
Trudeau said the issues of Punjab separatists in Canada and Canadian concerns about Indian interference in its affairs have come up in his conversations with Modi over the years.
“Obviously Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, peaceful protest. That’s something that’s extremely important to us. At the same time as we are always there to prevent violence, to push back against hatred,” he said a news conference in the Indian capital. “It’s important to remember that the actions of the few do not represent the entire community or Canada.”