Justin Trudeau: Stranded Canadian PM leaves India after plane snag fixed

Justin Trudeau in India

Relations between Canada and India have grown increasingly strained in recent months

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has left India after a problem with his aircraft extended a testing visit to India’s capital by two days.

He was meant to fly on Sunday after the G20 summit ended but an embarrassing mechanical snag grounded him.

Opponents at home and Indian social media users mocked him for the delay, which came after Mr Trudeau had a tense meeting with Indian PM Narendra Modi.

Canada-India relations have grown increasingly strained in recent months.

Mr Trudeau’s visit “did nothing to mend the frosty ties that he has developed with India”, reported India Today on Tuesday.

Days before he flew to Delhi, Mr Trudeau unexpectedly said his country was pausing talks on a trade treaty between the two countries.

Protests by Canada’s large Sikh population have been a major flashpoint in the tensions. India is concerned about the activities of Sikh separatists – it denies any hand in the murder of a prominent advocate of Sikh independence in British Columbia in June.

In Sunday’s meeting with Mr Trudeau, Mr Modi aired concerns about the “continuing anti-India activities of extremist elements in Canada” and said they were promoting secessionism and inciting violence, according to his office.

Meanwhile, Mr Trudeau’s team said the Canadian prime minister had “raised the importance of respecting the rule of law, democratic principles, and national sovereignty”.

Mr Trudeau later told a press conference he had also discussed foreign interference in Canada’s affairs with Mr Modi. Canada is including India in its sweeping investigation into election interference, which is also looking into China and Russia.

Eyebrows were raised when the Canadian prime minister didn’t attend a weekend dinner for world leaders hosted by Indian President Croupade Murmu – reports said his office didn’t give a reason. Some observers also thought he was quick to pull out of a handshake with Mr Modi.

How he’s filled the last two days is unclear. With no further diplomatic engagements, he’s thought to have spent the time at his hotel, according to media reports.

Neither Mr Trudeau nor the Indian government have publicly commented on the delay in his return home.

But an Indian minister did turn out to give him an official send-off and wish him and his entourage “a safe trip back home” on the behalf of Mr Modi’s government.

On Monday, Canada’s Department of National Defence told the BBC that Mr Trudeau’s aircraft – a Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) CC-150 Polaris with the tail number ’01’ – suffered a “maintenance problem” stemming from a “component that will have to be replaced”.

“The safety of all passengers is critical to the RCAF and pre-flight safety checks are a regular part of all our flight protocols,” the statement added. “The discovery of this issue is evidence that these protocols are effective.”

The defence department said a replacement aircraft was being sent to India to retrieve Mr Trudeau.

The Toronto Star reported that the RCAF sent a technician to India, who was able to fix the issue. It added that the CC-150 Polaris plane is part of an older fleet that has often faced snags and is set to be replaced soon.

The incident is not the first time that Mr Trudeau has had plane-related travel issues.

In 2019, a plane carrying journalists collided with the wing of an aircraft chartered to transport him on the campaign trail. He was not onboard the aircraft at the time.

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