Modi deliberately snubbing Canada's Trudeau over Khalistan?

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his family have been in India for the past two days on their first state visit, but his official reception has been rather cold, which commentators attribute to his apparent support for Sikh separatists and the Khalistan movement clear.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau  

In a clear departure from tradition, Prime Minister Narendra Modi did not personally receive him at the airport, instead sending a junior minister. This when Modi's penchant for exchanging hugs with foreign leaders is well known.

When Trudeau landed in New Delhi on Saturday night, he was welcomed by minister of state for agriculture and farmer's welfare Gajendra S Shekhawat, a much more junior minister than external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj or, probably, even either of her deputies - Gen V K Singh or M J Akbar.

Candice Malcolm, a columnist for the Canadian publication Toronto Sun, pointed out the stark contrast between the reception accorded to other leaders and that extended to Trudeau.

''On official state visits to India, PM Modi personally greets and welcomes the Israeli PM, UAE Crown Prince and US President. For PM Trudeau, he sends a low-ranking official,'' Malcolm wrote, adding that Shekhawat's rank is equivalent to a mere parliamentary secretary in Canada.

And on Sunday, as the Trudeaus went to Agra to visit the Taj Mahal, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath did not bother to receive them. A month ago, when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Taj, the UP CM personally showed him around. But all the Trudeaus got were the Agra district magistrate and some other local administrators.

Commentators say Trudeau's reception seems imbued with a pettiness that all too often marks the BJP government – especially considering that Trudeau has as many as three persons of Indian origin in his cabinet, all Sikhs.

However, they add it should also be remembered that when Modi visited Canada in 2016, he was also not received at the airport by Trudeau. So Modi did not exactly break any protocol by refusing to drive to the Delhi airport to receive the Canadian leader.

But Modi has been uncharacteristically unenthusiastic so far in his reception of Trudeau. The Indian Prime Minister has not posted any welcome tweet on his Twitter handle so far, a courtesy he normally extends to all visiting dignitaries.

Moreover, Trudeau is in Gujarat today. But Modi did not plan a joint trip with him to his home state, an honour he has accorded so far to leaders from the US, Israel, China and Japan.

Many say that the Centre's avoidance of pomp and ceremony is an indication of its displeasure with Trudeau for appointing cabinet ministers with links allegedly to the Sikh separatist movement.

Trudeau has four Sikh cabinet ministers - Harjit Sajjan, Amarjeet Sohi, Navdeep Bains and Bardish Chagger. Sohi said earlier this month that he's neither sympathetic to nor against the Khalistan movement.

"If there is a small segment of people in Canada who talk about separation, who talk about the creation of Khalistan if they do that in a peaceful way that is their right to do so but this is not an issue that I hear in the community," said Sohi.

Columnist Malcolm did not take kindly to this statement. She wondered whether newcomers to Canada were "entitled" to support foreign extremist organisations.

''Trudeau must denounce Khalistani extremists while in India & apologize to (Punjab) Chief Minister @capt_amarinder. And Jagmeet Singh should denounce Khalistani radicals.''We must stand against terrorism,'' she tweeted.

It's still not certain whether an Amarinder-Trudeau meet is on the cards when the Trudeaus visit Amritsar's Golden Temple later this week.

So far, it appears Trudeau will be met with "about the same enthusiasm as (a) malarian mosquito", as a Canadian policy advisor Bill Tufts described the low-profile reception Trudeau has got thus far.