Canada rescinds invitation to militant to dine with Trudeau

Prime Minister of Canada Justin Trudeau speaks during the India Canada business session in New Delhi on Thursday. (AFP)
Updated 23 February 2018
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Canada rescinds invitation to militant to dine with Trudeau

NEW DELHI: Canadian officials Thursday admitted a Sikh extremist convicted of attempting to murder an Indian minister had been invited to dinner with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in New Delhi, in the latest controversy to dog the premier’s week-long visit to India.
A statement confirming Jaspal Atwal’s invitation to Thursday’s official event had been canceled comes less than a day after Trudeau sought to quash perceptions his administration was soft on Sikh extremists.
The Canadian Embassy told AFP it “has rescinded Mr. Atwal’s invitation.”
Atwal was convicted for a botched assassination attempt on an Indian minister in Canada in 1986, and was sentenced to 20 years by a Canadian court.
He reportedly attended an event in Mumbai on Tuesday, where he was photographed alongside Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire, according to Canada’s public broadcaster CBC.
The embassy would not comment on whether Atwal was part of Trudeau’s official delegation, although reports in Canada said Trudeau’s office had denied this.
“We do not comment on matters relating to the PM’s security,” it said.
Atwal was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, an organization outlawed in India and Canada, among other places, that seeks an independent Sikh state of Khalistan.
India’s Foreign Ministry said it was investigating how Atwal — a Canadian passport holder of Indian origin — managed to obtain a visa to travel to India.
“We are trying to find out, and ascertain details from our mission (in Canada),” ministry spokesman Raveesh Kumar told reporters in New Delhi.
Canada is home to roughly half a million Sikhs and Trudeau’s administration has been accused of being too cosy with those agitating for a separate homeland in India’s northern Punjab state.
Trudeau particularly riled New Delhi last year when he attended a parade in Canada at which Sikh militants were feted as heroes.
Tensions over the Khalistan issue have marred Trudeau’s visit, and fueled speculation the prime minister was being snubbed by his Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.
Modi has been notably absent since Trudeau and his family arrived Saturday evening.
Government officials greeted the Trudeaus at the Taj Mahal and in Modi’s home state of Gujarat.
Trudeau on Wednesday sought to dispel perceptions his administration was too close to Sikh separatists, telling Punjab’s chief minister Canada did not sympathize with extremist movements.
But photographs of Atwal flanked by Canadian officials at the Mumbai event attended by Trudeau have thrust the controversy back into the headlines.
Modi and Trudeau are scheduled to meet on Friday in New Delhi at the tail end of his first visit as prime minister to India.


Trump's missile treaty pullout could escalate tension with China

Updated 8 min 56 sec ago
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Trump's missile treaty pullout could escalate tension with China

  • Trump earlier said US will pullout from a Cold War-era treaty with Russia on nuclear arms
  • China was not party to the treaty and has been fielding new and more deadly missile forces

WASHINGTON: A US withdrawal from a Cold War-era nuclear arms treaty with Russia could give the Pentagon new options to counter Chinese missile advances but experts warn the ensuing arms race could greatly escalate tensions in the Asia-Pacific.
US officials have been warning for years that the United States was being put at a disadvantage by China's development of increasingly sophisticated land-based missile forces, which the Pentagon could not match thanks to the US treaty with Russia.
President Donald Trump has signaled he may soon give the Pentagon a freer hand to confront those advances, if he makes good on threats to pull out of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which required elimination of short- and intermediate-range nuclear and conventional missiles.
Dan Blumenthal, a former Pentagon official now at the American Enterprise Institute, said a treaty pullout could pave the way for the United States to field easier-to-hide, road-mobile conventional missiles in places like Guam and Japan.
That would make it harder for China to consider a conventional first strike against US ships and bases in the region. It could also force Beijing into a costly arms race, forcing China to spend more on missile defenses.
"It will change the picture fundamentally," Blumenthal said.
Even as Trump has blamed Russian violations of the treaty for his decision, he has also pointed a finger at China. Beijing was not party to the INF treaty and has been fielding new and more deadly missile forces.
These include China's DF-26 intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM), which has a maximum range of 4,000 km (2,500 miles) and which the Pentagon says can threaten US land and sea-based forces as far away as the Pacific island of Guam. It was first fielded in 2016.
"If Russia is doing it (developing these missiles) and China is doing it and we're adhering to the agreement, that's unacceptable," Trump said on Sunday.
John Bolton, White House national security advisor, noted that recent Chinese statements suggest it wanted Washington to stay in the treaty.
"And that's perfectly understandable. If I were Chinese, I would say the same thing," he told the Echo Moskvy radio station. "Why not have the Americans bound, and the Chinese not bound?"
Growing threat
US officials have so far relied on other capabilities as a counter-balance to China, like missiles fired from US ships or aircraft. But advocates for a US land-based missile response say that is the best way to deter Chinese use of its muscular land-based missile forces.
Kelly Magsamen, who helped craft the Pentagon's Asian policy under the Obama administration, said China's ability to work outside of the INF treaty had vexed policymakers in Washington, long before Trump came into office.
But she cautioned that any new US policy guiding missile deployments in Asia would need to be carefully coordinated with allies, something that does not appear to have happened yet.
Mismanagement of expectations surrounding a US treaty pullout could also unsettle security in the Asia-Pacific, she cautioned.
"It's potentially destabilizing," she said.
Experts warn that China would put pressure on countries in the region to refuse US requests to position missiles there.
Abraham Denmark, a former senior Pentagon official under Obama, said Guam, Japan and even Australia were possible locations for US missile deployments.
"But there are a lot of alliance questions that appear at first glance to be very tricky," he cautioned.
Still, current and former US officials say Washington is right to focus on China's missile threat. Harry Harris, who led US military forces in the Pacific before becoming US ambassador to Seoul, said earlier this year that the United States was at a disadvantage.
"We have no ground-based (missile) capability that can threaten China because of, among other things, our rigid adherence ... to the treaty," Harris told a Senate hearing in March, without calling for the treaty to be scrapped.
Asked about Trump's comments, China's foreign ministry said a unilateral US withdrawal would have a negative impact and urged the United States to "think thrice before acting."
"Talking about China on the issue of unilaterally pulling out of the treaty is completely mistaken," spokeswoman Hua Chunying said.