Trudeau in India: The Potentially Sublime to the Absolute Ridiculousness

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau forced to answer questions on how Jaspal Atwal (right) was invited to a dinner this week in Mumbai. Image credit: CBC News

By: Laura Steiner

Part of being Canadian means adjusting to different cultures, and how they do business.  For South Asians (India/ Pakistan) business means building relationships before the deals are signed.  You meet the person you’re doing business with, their spouse, children, and sometimes parents.  That is probably why the Prime Minister brought his wife and children.  If he’d stopped there, had Sophie and the kids pop up at different events then great.  Headline would probably be: Handsome world leader shows pretty family, does  bhangara, gets trade deal done.  The Trudeau love train would have continued.

Instead, it’s a flaming wreckage.  At first it was the outfits; traditional, and sometimes considered too formal for the occasion. They caused one Indian politician Omar Abdullah to tweet: “Is it just me or is this choreographed cuteness all just a bit much now? Also FYI we Indians don’t dress like this every day sir, not even in India.”  One morning show host in Toronto compared them to the Von Trapp family on Twitter.

And then the politics.  Word reached Canada that Jaspal Atwal was invited to a state dinner in India with the Trudeaus.  Atwal was convicted of attempted murder of an Indian cabinet minister on a visit to Vancouver Island in 1986.  He was a member of  the”International Sikh Youth federation,” a group that has been banned in both Canada, and India.  He was even charged in connection with an attack on former Liberal Cabinet Minister Ujal Dosanj, a known opponent of Sikh separatism.

Questions have started to emerge over how that happened.  How did Atwal get an invitation? How did he get into India? Why was he invited?  According to one media report, the Indian government or factions therein, or security services may have planted him there.   It’s a shocking disrespect for journalists’ intelligence worthy of Donald Trump.

Canada needed this trip to be sublime; flawless.  There needed to be issues addressed on agriculture.  The lurking question mark over NAFTA means, we needed steps made towards growing our trade with India more than the $1 billion deal there was.  Instead it ends in absolute ridiculousness.