Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the Canadian delegation were stranded in New Delhi after his plane encountered technical problems, creating an ominous end to the visit amid criticism from the Indian government.
Trudeau, government staff and journalists traveling with the prime minister were due to leave India on Sunday evening after the G20 leaders’ summit. It is unclear when and how they left the country. “These issues cannot be resolved overnight and our delegation will remain in India until alternative arrangements are made,” Trudeau’s office said in a statement.
Earlier, Prime Minister Narendra Modi criticized Canada for allegedly allowing Sikh separatist groups to operate in the country. India’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement after the two leaders’ talks outside the meeting, saying that Modi expressed “strong concern about the continued anti-India activities of Canadian extremists.”
“The links of these forces to organized crime, drug cartels and human trafficking should also be of concern to Canada,” the ministry said. “It is necessary for both countries to cooperate to address such threats.”
Relations between the two countries have been tense, and Trudeau and Modi did not hold a formal bilateral meeting at the summit. But Trudeau said that during their brief conversation, they discussed foreign interference and “respect for the rule of law.”
Separatist groups seeking a Sikh homeland have organized a referendum in Canada asking the Sikh diaspora whether the Indian region where their community is majority should become independent.
India characterized a June protest outside the Ottawa High Commission, the equivalent of an embassy, as an “attack” and its counterterrorism agency is investigating the incident.
Last week, Canada launched a public inquiry into foreign interference in recent national elections, focusing on China, Russia and other state and non-state actors. Trudeau’s national security adviser Jody Thomas said India is a major source of foreign interference in Canada.
Indian officials have also accused Canada of being too tolerant of Sikh separatists who want an independent state of Punjab in northwest India.
Trudeau said the issue of Punjabi separatists in Canada and Canada’s concerns about Indian interference in its affairs had been raised in his conversations with Modi over the years.
“Obviously, Canada will always defend freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, peaceful protest. This is very important to us. At the same time, we are always committed to preventing violence and resisting hatred,” he told a news conference in New Delhi. “It’s important to remember that the actions of a few do not represent the entire community or Canada.”
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