Modi, Trudeau discuss defense cooperation

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Indian PM Narendra Modi meeting Justin Trudeau and his family ahead of bilateral talks/ Photo: NDTV

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Canadian counterpart Justin Trudeau held extensive talks on Friday. They discussed key issues of counter-terrorism and extremism as well as on ways to boost trade ties. The leaders ended signing six pacts, including on energy cooperation.

“We discussed the entire gamut of bilateral partnership and identified concrete steps to boost cooperation. We agreed to strengthen our defense cooperation,” Modi said while noting that terrorism and extremism were threats for democratic countries such as India and Canada.

Modi received his Canadian counterpart ahead of their bilateral summit at the Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi, putting to rest speculations about the government cold-shouldering the visiting dignitary.

During a join media event, Modi made it clear that those challenging India’s sovereignty, unity, and integrity cannot be tolerated. His comments were seen as a veiled reference to the Canadian government’s soft approach towards the Khalistan issue. Modi also asserted that there cannot be any place for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism.

Trudeau was joined by his wife Sophie, and children Xavier, Ella-Grace, and Hadrien at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. Modi shook hands with Trudeau and hugged him, giving him a warm reception contrary to Canadian reports that Trudeau was “snubbed.”

On Thursday evening, breaking his silence since the Canadian prime minister’s arrival in India on February 17th, Modi said he looked forward to the bilateral meeting on Friday. “I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries,” Modi tweeted.

“I particularly look forward to meeting his children Xavier, Ella-Grace, and Hadrien,” Modi added in another tweet.

The ceremonial reception optics gain importance as they came after much speculation that Modi and his government were giving Trudeau the cold-shoulder during his eight-day state visit to India. The visiting dignitary and his family have since visited Agra, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Amritsar. 

However, Modi also made it clear that those challenging India’s sovereignty, unity and integrity cannot be tolerated, seen as a veiled reference to the Canadian government’s soft approach towards the Khalistan issue. Modi also asserted that there cannot be any place for those who misuse religion for political motives and promote separatism.

Trudeau’s pro-Khalistan approach is being criticized by many including Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who raised the issue with the Canadian prime minister during a meeting. On his part, Trudeau had assured Singh that his country does not support separatism in India or elsewhere.

Trudeau described India as a natural partner for commercial cooperation. Modi said they have also asked the officials of their countries to re-double their efforts to finalize the bilateral free trade agreement.

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