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Hug for Trudeau from Modi amid embarrassment over party invitation for convict

The invitation to a man convicted of the attempted murder of an Indian politician was the latest blunder in Mr Trudeau’s eight-day visit to India.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has greeted his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, with a hug, a day after embarrassed Canadian diplomats had to revoke a party invitation for a man convicted of attempting to kill an Indian politician.

The invitation was the latest blunder in Mr Trudeau’s eight-day visit, which has included everything from criticism of his colourful wardrobe to questions about whether his government is sufficiently critical of Sikh extremists.

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Jaspal Atwal, a Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had been invited by a Canadian MP to a Thursday evening party for Mr Trudeau at Canada’s High Commission in New Delhi.

Atwal was convicted of trying to kill an Indian Cabinet minister during a 1986 visit to Canada. The minister was shot but survived. Atwal was jailed, but became a businessman after his release.

Canada quickly withdrew the invitation once it was discovered, with Mr Trudeau telling reporters: “Obviously we take this situation extremely seriously. The individual in question never should have received an invitation.”

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Earlier in the week, Atwal attended a reception in Mumbai, at which he was photographed with Mr Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau.

Mr Modi nevertheless welcomed Mr Trudeau on Friday with his signature bear hug, smiling at his wife and their three children, who also attended the formal outdoor ceremony.

In a tweet on Thursday night, Mr Modi said he was looking forward to meeting Mr Trudeau and his family, adding “I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries.”

But it has not been an easy trip for the Canadian premier in many ways.

He has been ridiculed in India on social media for his family’s seemingly endless wardrobe changes, with the photogenic group often appearing in colourful Indian clothing, and has faced repeated insistence that he denounce Sikh extremism.

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“Sikh radicalism is the main issue,” the Hindustan Times, one of India’s largest newspapers, said in an editorial earlier this week. “Justin Trudeau should allay India’s concerns on terrorism.”

Canada has a small but politically potent Sikh population, some of whom support a breakaway Sikh state, known as Khalistan, inside India. The Indian media often describe Mr Trudeau’s government as being soft on the Khalistan issue.

Mr Trudeau insisted that he had told Indian politicians that was not true.

“I was pleased to be able to make very, very clear that Canada supports one united India,” he said after one meeting.

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