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At G7, Modi Meets Trudeau for First Time Since Canada Went Public With Nijjar Accusation

While the Indian prime minister’s office released the photo of their latest meeting in Italy, there was no mention of Trudeau’s meeting on any of his social media channels till the time of publication.
Narendra Modi and Justin Trudeau in Italy, on the sidelines of the G7 summit. Photo: X/@narendramodi

New Delhi: For first time after Canada accused Indian government officials of being involved in killing a Sikh Canadian citizen, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met with the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the sidelines of the G7 summit in Italy

Last September, Trudeau had stood up in Canadian parliament’s House of Commons and made a stunning allegation – that Indian government officials were potentially behind the June 2023 killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a Canadian citizen whom India had proscribed as a Khalistani terrorist.

India had reacted angrily, stopped visa services for Canadians and forced the withdrawal of over 40 Canadian diplomats – following which relations between both countries has been at a limbo.

Ten months later, Modi and Trudeau came face to face again at the G7 summit in Apulia, Italy. This marked Modi’s first foreign visit after the recently-held general elections, where the ruling alliance secured a majority, but his party fell short of a standalone win.

While Canada is a member of G7, India has been frequently attending outreach sessions of the summit of developed countries since 2003.

The photo shared on the Indian prime minister’s official X account shows a standing Modi and Trudeau shaking hands and conversing. Modi, smiling and talking, also held Trudeau’s arm with his left hand, while Trudeau maintained a more serious expression.

The accompanying text with the photo simply read, “Met Canadian PM Justin Trudeau at the G7 Summit.”

It was an unexpected meeting for observers, as it was not on the official schedules of either Modi or Trudeau.

They had also sat around the same round table of the G7 outreach session earlier on Friday, around six seats away from each other day.

Their last discussion took place during a strained meeting on the sidelines of the G20 summit in New Delhi on September 11, 2023.

Though it was not publicly known at the time, Trudeau had raised the Nijjar allegations with Modi during this meeting. Both sides had publicly reiterated their standard positions in the readout without mentioning the allegations, but the uneasy atmosphere was evident from the photos released by both parties.

While the Indian prime minister’s office released the photo of their latest meeting in Italy, there was no mention of Trudeau’s meeting on any of his social media channels till the time of publication.

Canadian media reported that the Trudeau’s spokesperson confirmed that the two leaders had “an interaction on the margins of the G7”.

In a media statement, the director of media relations in the Canadian prime minister’s office, Ann-Clara Vaillancourt, said, “The Prime Minister congratulated Prime Minister Modi on his re-election and the leaders had a brief discussion on the bilateral relationship. Of course there are important issues between our two countries right now. You can appreciate that we won’t be making any further statements at this time.”

Although there were no additional details provided about the discussion, it is suspected to have centred around the Nijjar case, which has put the bilateral relationship on hold.

India has, so far, claimed that Canada has not shared any evidence related to the Nijjar issue to conduct its own investigation. This is in contrast with a similar allegation from the US, after US prosecutors alleged that an unnamed Indian government official was behind the hiring of a hitman by an Indian national for a failed assassination of a New York-based pro-Khalistani lawyer.

India had set up a high-level committee to look into the claims made by US government prosecutors, but its outcome is still not known.

India’s hardline attitude towards Canada was demonstrated by foreign secretary Vinay Kwatra at a media briefing about Modi’s visit to Italy, two days ago.

“But insofar as Canada is concerned, I think the main issue with regard to Canada continues to be the political space that Canada provides to anti-India elements which advocate extremism and violence, and we have repeatedly conveyed our deep concerns to them and we expect them to take strong action,” said Kwatra.

After the results were announced, Trudeau had congratulated Modi and stated that Ottawa was ready to work with India “to advance the relationship between our nations’ peoples — anchored to human rights, diversity and the rule of law”. Canada had characterised the investigation into Nijjar’s killing as part of Ottawa’s commitment to ‘rule of law’.

A few days later, Modi responded on X that India looked “forward to working with Canada based on mutual understanding and respect for each other’s concerns”.

Last month, Canada announced the arrest of four Indian nationals for involvement in the killing of Nijjar outside a gurudwara in a suburb of Vancouver.

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