Opinion: Trudeau’s trip to India accomplished its objective

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s state visit to India has been labelled a total disaster. It wasn’t.

At worst, it was only a partial disaster. And it did accomplish what the prime minister had set out to do, which was provide good visuals for his Liberals in next year’s federal election campaign.

Prime ministerial trips abroad are rarely designed to produce specific results. Sometimes they happen to coincide with investment or other decisions, giving the prime minister a chance to announce them and take political credit.

But in the vast majority of cases, such decisions would have been made regardless of any visit.

Trudeau underlined this when, in the one investment announcement he made on the seven-day India trip, he got the numbers wrong. He said Indian companies plan to invest $1 billion in Canada. In fact, they plan to invest only $250 million.

On this trip, criticism of Trudeau ran the gamut – from the clothes he wore, to the inordinate amount of time he took visiting tourist spots with his family, to the fact that a convicted terrorist was invited to dine with him.

Local and international media mocked him for wearing fancy, traditional Indian garb deemed more suitable for a Bollywood film. They pointed out that this was not what ordinary Indians wear in daily life.

But the mockers forget that Trudeau wasn’t trying to impress the locals. Rather he was trying to impress those Canadian voters back home who are thrilled to see their prime minister dressed as a Bollywood hero.

You can bet that photos of Trudeau in traditional dress will feature large next year in ridings where there are significant numbers of Indo-Canadian voters.

So will photos that show the exceptionally photogenic Trudeau family visiting national Indian monuments, such as the Taj Mahal.

And so will photos pairing off Trudeau with each of the 14 Liberal MPs – many of them Indo-Canadian – who just had to accompany the prime minister on this journey.

But the real public relations disaster on this trip was the decision – later reversed – to invite convicted Sikh-Canadian terrorist Jaspal Atwal to dinner.

Atwal was sentenced by a Canadian judge to 20 years in prison for attempting to assassinate an Indian dignitary visiting Vancouver Island in 1986.

The attempted murder occurred just one year after the terrorist bombing of an Air India flight out of Toronto that killed 329.

Both outrages took place within the context of rising Sikh extremism, sparked in part by an Indian government military attack on the religion’s holiest shrine.

When Trudeau found out, through the media, that Atwal had been invited to a banquet hosted by Canada’s High Commission, he was embarrassed.

But not fatally so. In particular, the Indian government didn’t appear to care.

Canadians need visas to visit India and the government there is usually stingy about granting them to those that it believes tolerate any kind of Sikh separatism.

Even New Democratic Party Leader Jagmeet Singh says that he has been denied a visa by India.

But Atwal was readily accredited by Indian authorities, who almost certainly knew his history.

Perhaps they felt he had changed his views. Terrorists do sometimes. Perhaps they were impressed by his ties to the federal and provincial Liberal parties (his local Liberal MP arranged the abortive dinner invitation).

Or perhaps they knew how fickle authority can be. It wasn’t that long ago that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was persona non grata in the U.S. because of his alleged role in a 2002 massacre of Muslims. That pariah status ended when Modi became prime minister and now he is treated as a valued world leader.

Trudeau and Modi eventually met Friday. According to the official communiqué, they talked about things that Canada already sells India, like uranium. They also talked about things Canada wants to sell India, like lentils.

So it wasn’t a complete disaster. And the Liberals now have all those great photos.

Thomas Walkom is a national affairs reporter.

Just Posted

Is the fate of Red Deer’s Parsons House solely in the hands of the province?

Demolition of old police station next door to begin this fall

Fundraiser to help keep kids warm in Blackfalds

Community Warmth Fall Fundraiser

Piper Creek Foundation gets a new name

Red Deer subsidized housing program for seniors

Reveen returns to Red Deer

Presented by Friends of Red Deer Regional Hospital

2019 Winter Games will transform Red Deer: Olympic organizer

Team leader behind 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics provides inspirational pep talk

WATCH: Red Deer students take part in annual run

Dawe/St. Pat’s Run reaches 40th anniversary

Smile Cookie fundraiser campaign for Reading College kicks off

Fundraising campaign runs Sept. 12-18 for program that helps children improve their reading

‘Nightmare that won’t end’: Storm evacuees can’t return yet

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Hundreds of people waited in long lines for water… Continue reading

New bridge collapses into river in rural Saskatchewan hours after opening

HYAS, Sask. — A rural politician in eastern Saskatchewan says he’s at… Continue reading

Halifax researchers tag great white shark in Atlantic Canada for first time

HALIFAX — For the first time in Atlantic Canadian waters, scientists have… Continue reading

Liberal riding association president blindsided by MP’s defection

OTTAWA — The president of an Ontario Liberal riding association says he… Continue reading

Pope gives bishops more decision-making options

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis decreed on Tuesday that ordinary Catholics should… Continue reading

Hurricane rating system fails to account for deadly rain

TRENTON, N.C. — When meteorologists downgraded Hurricane Florence from a powerful Category… Continue reading

Glad company: Trailer for Disney’s ‘Mary Poppins Returns’

LOS ANGELES — A beloved nanny is preparing to take to the… Continue reading

Most Read