Contrasting Responses of UK and Canada Prime Ministers at G20 Summit in India
Updated: Sep 23
UK PM's Religious Display and Controversial Stance
New York, NY, Sep 12th 2023: Canada and the United Kingdom, often seen as exemplary democracies, share a common Head of State in King Charles III.
However, during their interactions with India's Hindu nationalist government on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in New Delhi, the behaviors of their prime ministers couldn't have been more different.
UK PM's Emphasis on Hindu Roots
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the UK's first Prime Minister of Indian heritage, made a conspicuous display of his Hindu heritage while hosted by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
He visited a Hindu temple and spoke passionately about Hindu festivals.
A Missed Opportunity for Inclusivity
While this celebration of his heritage is understandable, it could have been fairer if he had also paid respects at a revered Muslim shrine, a historical gurdwara, and a heritage church in the capital of a former British colony, a place teeming with diverse communities.
After all, the UK is a diverse country with citizens of various Indian roots, including Muslims, Sikhs, Christians, and Hindus like Sunak himself.
Controversial Remarks on Sikh Dissidents
However, the UK leader showed his less liberal side when questioned by a reporter from a pro-Modi media outlet about Sikh religious dissidents in the UK.
He acknowledged the UK's cooperation with India in dealing with "Pro-Khalistan Extremism," raising questions about the UK government's stance on British Sikh citizens critical of Indian state policy.
Overlooking Hindu Extremism at Home
What seemed to be missing from Sunak's response was an acknowledgment of rising Hindu extremism in the UK, which has targeted British Muslims.
In 2022, masked Hindu men marched provocatively through a Muslim-majority area in Leicester, and a similar incident occurred in India's Haryana state this year, with Modi's party backing armed Hindu marchers in clashes with Muslim residents.
Contrasting Response from Canada's PM
In stark contrast, Canada's Prime Minister Trudeau did not let himself be influenced by the media's cues.
He reiterated Canadian democratic principles of free speech, the right to protest, and the right to dissent.
Trudeau openly discussed India's perceived interference on Canadian soil and emphasized the importance of defending freedom of expression.
“Canada,” said Trudeau, “will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and freedom of peaceful protest and it is extremely important to us.”
The Canadian leader then spoke about what he called “the flip side”, stating “we also highlighted the importance of respecting the rule of law and we did talk about foreign interference.”
G20 Ends with Contrasting Leadership
The G20 Summit concluded with a tale of two prime ministers from two Commonwealth nations.
One defended the rights of his people to peaceful dissent, while the other labeled a section of his fellow citizens as extremists, seemingly overlooking the real extremists threatening religious harmony in the United Kingdom.
Paramjit Singh is a free lance writer, avid reader, content creator and travels all over Asia. Currently lives in Virginia. His twitter handle is- @ParamjeetT42915