New Delhi, Feb 23 (IANS) With Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau by his side, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday said there is no place for misuse of religion for political and divisive purposes, sending a clear message at a time Canada is perceived as having been soft on Khalistani separatists.
“Terrorism and extremism are threats to our democratic and pluralistic societies,” Modi told the media along with Trudeau following one-on-one and delegation-level talks between between the two countries here.
“It is very important for us to come together to fight these forces,” he said. “There should be no space for those who misuse religion for political purposes and divisive politics.”
Modi’s candid remarks came during the last leg of Trudeau’s week-long visit, which was marked by a certain cold attitude from New Delhi towards the visiting dignitary because of Canada’s perceived support to Khalistani elements.
In a major embarrassment to Trudeau, on Thursday his country’s High Commission here had to rescind an invitation to a convicted Khalistani separatist, Jaspal Atwal, for a reception that was hosted in honour of Trudeau.
After Trudeau’s arrival on Saturday, it was only on Thursday evening that Modi tweeted his welcome message before greeting the visiting dignitary with a hug ahead of the ceremonial reception at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday.
In his remarks, Trudeau avoided any reference to separatists or terrorism. “We share respect for democratic traditions and pluralism,” he said adding the two leaders discussed ways to strengthen people-to-people ties between the two countries.
Modi said the National Security Advisors (NSAs) of the two countries were giving finishing touches to the Framework for Cooperation and Countering Terrorism and Violent Extremism between the two countries.
Modi said that during Friday’s talks, both sides also discussed means to further deepen economic relations.
“We have asked our negotiators to double their efforts to finalise the Bilateral Investment and Promotion Agreement and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement,” he said.
Bilateral trade between India and Canada stood at a C$8.02 billion (around $6 billion), which does not reflect the true potential.
Following the talks, the two sides signed a joint declaration of intent for cooperation in the field of ICT and electronics, terms of reference for the India-Canada ministerial energy dialogue, and memorandums of understanding (MoUs) for cooperation in the areas of sports, intellectual property rights (IPRs), higher education, and science, technology and innovation.
Stating that there are over 120,000 Indian students in Canada, Modi said that the renewal of the MoU on higher education would benefit students and teachers in both countries.
He also called for increased exchange of skilled professionals and said that there are immense possibilities in the technology partnership.
Describing Canada as an energy superpower, the Prime Minister said the North American country can help India meets its increasing energy needs.
“Today we decided to expand our energy dialogue and chalk out the future of our energy partnership,” he said.
Stating that regional and global issues also came up for discussion, Modi said that the two sides assessed the situation in Afghanistan, the challenges of cross-border terrorism it faces, and the efforts being undertaken for a secure, prosperous and democratic Afghanistan.
“We share similar views on marine transport and freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region, the threat to the two Koreas from North Korea’s proliferation efforts, and restoration of the freedom of democratic institutions in the Maldives,” he stated.
With Canada being home to around 1.2 million people of Indian origin, Modi said that people-to-people contacts formed an important foundation for the strategic partnership between the two countries.
“We are committed to maintaining friendship and amity with the Indian community in Canada and seek their active participation in India’s progress and development,” he said.
On his part, Trudeau said that both India and Canada share a set of values that make them natural allies.
“As Canada looks to diversify its own economy and looks for new opportunities to do business beyond its boundaries, India is a natural partner and trusted friend for commercial cooperation,” he said.
The visit of Trudeau, who assumed office in November 2015, comes after Modi’s visit to Canada in April that year, which was the first prime ministerial visit from India to that country in 42 years.