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Modi talks tough on separatists after meeting Trudeau

Modi talks tough on separatists after meeting Trudeau

NEW DELHI, Feb 23: 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, reports AFP. 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. AP adds from New Delhi: 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. The invitation was the latest blunder in Trudeau's eight-day visit, which has included everything from criticism of his colorful wardrobe to questions about whether his government is sufficiently critical of Sikh extremists. 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. 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 denounce 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." 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.

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