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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 21 June 2018

Modi hugs Trudeau amid India-Canada invitation embarrassment

A Canada-based former member of a banned Sikh separatist group, had been invited by a Canadian MP to a party for Trudeau in New Delhi

Prime Minister Narendra Modi greeted his Canadian counterpart, Justin Trudeau, on Friday with a hug, one 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.

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

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 imprisoned and became a businessman after his release.

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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."

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

Mr Modi still 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 Thursday night tweet, Mr Modi said he looked forward to meeting the Canadian prime minister and his family, adding: "I appreciate his deep commitment to ties between our two countries."

But it hasn't been an easy trip for Mr Trudeau in many ways.

He's 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.

"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 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.