NEW DELHI, Feb 23, 2018 (BSS/AFP) – Prime Minister Narendra Modi spoke out against separatism Friday in an apparent warning to his Canadian counterpart, whose week-long visit to India has been marred by claims his administration is soft on Sikh extremists.
Standing next to visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Modi said India would not tolerate those who sought to challenge its integrity.
“There should be no place for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism,” Modi said.
“We will not tolerate those who challenge the unity, integrity and harmony of our countries.”
Although he did not mention Sikhs by name his words were seen as a clear reference to demands from some in the community for a separate homeland to be carved out of India.
Trudeau has been at pains during his visit to quash long-simmering perceptions in India that his Canada is a safe haven for Sikh extremists.
But on Thursday he was forced to admit that a Sikh found guilty of trying to assassinate an Indian minister in 1986 had been invited to dine with him in New Delhi.
It was just one in a series of embarrassments that began the moment Trudeau and his family touched down on Indian soil.
Indian newspapers were quick to point out that only a junior minister was deputed to meet the Canadian leader, interpreting that as a snub from Modi.
During his visit Canada’s telegenic premier, who is more used to global adoration than approbation, has also faced criticism for his decision to dress in colourful Indian outfits.
In Mumbai earlier this week he even out-blinged Bollywood when he opted for a gold sherwani, traditional men’s wedding attire, at a movie event attended by top Indian actors, all of whom wore western clothing.
“What’s catching everyone’s attention is the Trudeau family’s fascinating wardrobe choice — too Indian even for an Indian,” said weekly news magazine Outlook.
Canada is home to roughly half a million Sikhs and Trudeau’s administration has been accused of being too cosy with those who appear to back independence.
Trudeau particularly riled New Delhi last year when he attended a parade in Canada at which Sikh militants were feted as heroes.