SUPPORT US

In The Media

Foreign woes haunt Trudeau at Home After Debacle in New Delhi

by Josh Wingrove & Iain Marlow (feat. Jocelyn Coulon)

Bloomberg
March 16, 2018

(Bloomberg) -- Justin Trudeau’s latest trip abroad was unraveling even before an attempted murderer entered the fray.

The appearance of Sikh separatist Jaspal Atwal at a Trudeau reception in Mumbai was the nadir. The Canadian prime minister had already puzzled Indians by preaching liberal values in English and French. Canada and India bickered over Atwal, capping a visit derided as thin on business and heavy on photo ops in over-the-top local attire.

“It has been one of the worst planned and executed visits that I have seen,” said Harsh Pant, a professor of international relations at King’s College London. “He was more intent on projecting his own sense of Canadian values.”

High hopes for Trudeau on the world stage have faded amid stumbles where style has at times trumped substance. At stake is the country’s bid for a United Nations Security Council seat and its efforts to expand ties with Asia as Donald Trump upends Canada’s most important trade relationship.

The controversy has followed Trudeau home, with his support slumping to the lowest since his Liberal Party took power in 2015. The prime minister’s sunny persona and “progressive” agenda, which shot him to global rockstar status in an era of populist backlash, have found few takers abroad and are starting to wear thin on the domestic front.

China -- the nation’s second-largest trading partner after the U.S. -- also balked at Trudeau’s push to adopt provisions on trade like labor, gender and environmental guarantees, but he has brushed off the criticism. “We’re going to continue to work hard and look for opportunities for Canadians to benefit in Asia and elsewhere around the world,” he said in a Bloomberg Television interview Wednesday.

Trudeau zigzagged India in a trip mostly aimed at his country’s large Indo-Canadian diaspora, concentrated in vote-rich Toronto and Vancouver suburbs. He met Prime Minister Narendra Modi only near the end of the visit.

Enter Atwal, a Canadian jailed in 1987 for trying to assassinate a visiting Indian cabinet minister. He once advocated for an independent Sikh state -- a cause toward which some think Canada remains too sympathetic -- and sought an invitation to a Trudeau reception from a Liberal lawmaker, Randeep Sarai.

Atwal went and the controversy exploded. Sarai quit one of his posts with the party. One Canadian official told reporters, on condition of anonymity, that factions within Modi’s government may have facilitated Atwal’s presence in a bid to embarrass Trudeau. The official hasn’t been identified, though Conservative lawmakers said in Parliament it was national security adviser Daniel Jean. Trudeau backed the official; India bristled and called the comments baseless.

The standoff continues. Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, recalling a meeting with her Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj, again floated the idea. “I started off the meeting by saying to her that it had been an honest mistake,” Freeland told CTV this month. “I also said to her that it was noteworthy that Mr. Atwal had been able to travel to India.”

Hiccups Abroad

The debacle stands in contrast to Emmanuel Macron’s brief visit this month, which netted deals totaling 13 billion euros ($16 billion) versus Trudeau’s C$1 billion ($767 million), though France’s links to India run deeper than Canada’s. Modi met Macron on the tarmac and hugged him. The French president pledged to strengthen defense and energy ties, capping his visit with a boat ride on the Ganges alongside Modi.

It’s not Trudeau’s first hiccup abroad. He riled allies by playing hardball on a Pacific trade deal and failed to launch free-trade talks with China during his visit to Beijing. He also waffled on a peacekeeping pledge, which was once a core policy.

Condemnation of the India trip has been near unanimous. One Western diplomat in India, speaking on condition of anonymity, said their country was studying it as a cautionary tale. “A shorter, more intense trip targeted on what we can buy or sell may have been more beneficial -- and also avoided the flurry of outfits,” said Jocelyn Coulon, a former adviser to Trudeau’s first foreign minister who is now a researcher at The Montreal Centre for International Studies.

Selfies and Socks

“We’ve been working under the somewhat lazy assumption that the prime minister’s charm is enough to carry the day,” David Mulroney, a former Canadian ambassador to China, said in an interview Thursday. Canada only brings its “diplomatic A-game” to Washington, not to Beijing and New Delhi, he added. “The India trip is, in my view, one of the most disastrous foreign policy initiatives we’ve seen in some time.”

In Canada’s last election, Trudeau was attacked by rivals as “just not ready” to govern, a shot at his inexperience and penchant for selfies and quirky socks. That image was stirred in India and polls show Trudeau’s support is slipping.

Abacus Data found 37 percent of Canadians said Trudeau represented Canada poorly on the world stage, up from 21 percent five months earlier. The same poll found the government’s approval rating had fallen to 42 percent, the lowest since October, while Trudeau lost his own net-positive approval for the first time since becoming prime minister. A polling aggregator run by the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. said the Conservatives were narrowly ahead of Trudeau’s Liberals for the first time since the election.

Read more about the challenge Trudeau faces from a Sikh rival to his left

Atwal has sought to quell the outcry. Journalists packed a law office in downtown Vancouver to hear from him this month. “I am sorry for any embarrassment this matter has caused to Canada, India, my community and my family,” Atwal said, adding he has renounced “any form of terrorism” and no longer seeks an independent Sikh state.

Trudeau downplayed the fallout in Wednesday’s interview, saying Canada was pleased to eventually sign onto the Pacific trade pact after winning concessions, got “concrete” deals on pulses with India and is “moving forward in constructive ways” with China. He defended his push to make trade more “progressive,” saying the Canadian measures help ensure “the fears people have about globalization are actually allayed by demonstrating that growth can benefit everyone.”

Roland Paris, a University of Ottawa professor who once advised Trudeau on foreign policy, said the progressive push is worthwhile but also urged a rethink. “He’s right to be concerned about maintaining social license for free trade in Canada and elsewhere,” Paris said in an email. “That said, the Trudeau government needs to devote more strategic attention to Asia, given the region’s importance to Canada’s economic future.”


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS
 
UPCOMING EVENTS


No events are scheduled at this time.


SEARCH
EXPERTS IN THE MEDIA

Passport? What passport?

by Martin C. Barr (feat. Andrew Griffith), Laval News, June 29, 2022

Oil production test looms for OPEC heavyweights Saudi Arabia, UAE

by Editorial Staff (feat. Ellen Wald), S&P Global, June 29, 2022

Eric Nuttall & Amrita Sen - Oil & Energy Update

by Eric Nuttall (feat. Amrita Sen), Nine Point Partners, June 29, 2022

All talk, no traction

by Maura Forest and Andy Blatchford (feat. Robert Huebert), Politico, June 29, 2022

U.S. pushes for Russian oil price ceiling. Feasible?

by Matt Levin (feat. Ellen Wald), MARKETPLACE, June 28, 2022

Russia Ukraine Update

by Susan Bonner (feat. Andrew Rasiulis), CBC Radio One, June 28, 2022

Un sommet de l’OTAN pour tenir tête à la Russie

by Marie Vastel (feat. David Perry), Le Devoir, June 26, 2022

A geopolitical alternative system of co-operation for nations

by Staff Reporter (feat. Swaran Singh), The Zimbabwe Mail, June 26, 2022

Analyst says high oil prices spurs little drilling

by Lee Harding (feat. Kevin Birn), Western Standard, June 26, 2022

It’s time for Canada to get serious about defence

by John Ibbitson (feat. James Fergusson and Rob Huebert), The Globe and Mail, June 25, 2022

Trudeau meets with Rwandan president, expands diplomatic mission in Kigali

by CBC Newsroom Staff (feat. Colin Robertson), CBC Newroom, June 24, 2022

With New Threats Looming, Canada Commits Billions to Air Defense

by News Desk (feat. Andrea Charron), New Express News, June 24, 2022

Drop in oil prices is not a quick fix for global inflation

by Editorial Staff (feat. Amrita Sen), The National, June 24, 2022

Highs and Lows of the Spring Sitting

by Peter Van Dusen (feat. Andrew Griffith), Prime Time Politics, June 24, 2022

Oil Incurs Second Weekly Loss As Analysts Differ On Inflation, Demand

by Ship and Bunker News Team (feat. Amrita Sen), Ship And Bunker, June 24, 2022


LATEST TWEETS

HEAD OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Suite 1800, 150–9th Avenue SW
Calgary, Alberta, Canada T2P 3H9

 

OTTAWA OFFICE
Canadian Global Affairs Institute
8 York Street, 2nd Floor
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada K1N 5S6

 

Phone: (613) 288-2529
Email: [email protected]
Web: cgai.ca

 

Making sense of our complex world.
Déchiffrer la complexité de notre monde.

 

© 2002-2022 Canadian Global Affairs Institute
Charitable Registration No. 87982 7913 RR0001

 


Sign in with Facebook | Sign in with Twitter | Sign in with Email