February 23, 2018 7:47 am
Updated: February 23, 2018 11:12 am

Indian PM bear hugs Justin Trudeau after dinner-invite controversy

WATCH ABOVE: Trudeau receives warm welcome from India's Modi despite Sikh extremist controversy


Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau on Friday with a hug, one day after embarrassed Canadian diplomats had to revoke a party invitation for a man convicted of attempting to kill an Indian politician.

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The invitation was the latest blunder in Trudeau’s eight-day visit, which has included everything from criticism of his colourful wardrobe to questions about whether his government is sufficiently critical of Sikh extremists.

READ MORE: No one vetted a convict invited to Trudeau dinner in India; questions emerge on why India lifted his travel ban

Jaspal Atwal, a Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had been invited by a Canadian member of Parliament to a Thursday evening party for Trudeau at Canada’s High Commission in New Delhi.

Atwal was convicted of trying to kill an Indian Cabinet minister during a 1986 visit to Canada. The minister was shot but survived. Atwal was imprisoned, and became a businessman after his release.

Canada quickly withdrew the invitation once it was discovered, with Trudeau telling reporters: “Obviously we take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation.”

Earlier in the week, Atwal attended a Mumbai reception at which he was photographed with Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Modi still welcomed Trudeau on Friday with his signature bear hug, smiling at his wife and their three children, who also attended the formal outdoor ceremony.

During their meeting, Modi said he and Trudeau agreed to fight terrorism and those who misuse religion to divide people.

This was the sixth in-person meeting between Modi and Trudeau and there were clear signs of affection between the two, with Modi saying Trudeau’s visit was long-awaited and very pleasant.

READ MORE: Justin Trudeau’s visit to the Sikh holy site is a necessary political move — here’s why

In a Thursday night tweet, Modi said he looked forward to meeting Trudeau and his family, adding “I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries.”

But it hasn’t been an easy trip for Trudeau in many ways.

He’s been ridiculed in India on social media for his family’s seemingly endless wardrobe changes, with the photogenic group often appearing in colorful Indian clothing, and has faced repeated insistence that he denounces Sikh extremism.

“Sikh radicalism is the main issue,” the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest newspapers, said in an editorial earlier this week. “Justin Trudeau should allay India’s concerns on terrorism.”

WATCH: Are Justin Trudeau and his family overdoing it with their traditional Indian outfits?

Canada has a small but politically potent Sikh population, some of whom support a breakaway Sikh state, known as Khalistan, inside India. The Indian media often describe Trudeau’s government as being soft on the Khalistan issue.

Trudeau insisted that he’d told Indian politicians that was not true. “I was pleased to be able to make very, very clear that Canada supports one united India,” he said after one meeting.


© 2018 The Canadian Press

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