File image of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau with PM Narendra Modi
File image of Canadian PM Justin Trudeau with PM Narendra Modi | PTI
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There has been an absence of ministerial engagement in the 9 months since Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visited India.

Toronto: India’s relationship with Canada has been marked by an absence of engagement at the ministerial level in terms of bilateral visits in the nine months since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s difficult and controversial visit to India.

A senior Indian official described the state of affairs as “standstill”, while another predicted the situation might not change for yet another year since Lok Sabha elections are due in India next year and just months later, federal elections will be held in Canada in October 2019. An Indian official added on condition of anonymity: “It will be up to the new government to bring the relationship back on track.”

That the relationship has been somewhat derailed is evident from not just the absence of bilateral visits in the past nine months, but the cancellation of expected visits. Commerce minister Suresh Prabhu was expected in Canada in September, but the trip never came through. That was also the case with the visit of minister of road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari.

The then minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar was due in Canada in November for a visit that included participation in the Halifax International Security Forum but it had to be cancelled after he resigned from the government in the wake of a spate of sexual harassment allegations. His replacement at the Halifax Forum, VK Singh, also minister of state for external affairs, skipped the event and expected engagements in Toronto, though he did travel to the US.

More than one attempt to have a high-level bilateral meeting between external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and her Canadian counterpart Chrystia Freeland have come to naught, according to Indian officials.

Meanwhile, HT has learnt that a proposed visit to India by Canada’s minister of environment, Catherine McKenna, is also off.

There was no response from officials in New Delhi to a request for comments.

Minister for mines Narendra Singh Tomar did visit in March but that had been arranged prior to Trudeau’s trip.

Also, human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar travelled to Vancouver in July but that was to inaugurate and participate in the 17th World Sanskrit Conference.

Officials don’t rule out bilateral meetings in the months ahead though nothing is planned at this time. Canada’s parliamentary secretary for international development Kamal Khera is expected in India this week, but the sort of structured and continuous dialogue at the senior-most levels of government that marked 2016 and 2017 has been missing for the past few months.

Also read: India trashes Canada theory that govt invited Sikh militant Atwal to Trudeau dinner

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