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Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, right, departs Ottawa for India with his wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and children Xavier, Ella-Grace and Hadrien on Feb. 16, 2018.

Sean Kilpatrick/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is on his way to India, where he plans to spend the next week buttressing Canada's cultural and economic ties with the burgeoning South Asian nation.

India is the world's second-largest country by population and one of the world's fastest growing economies – one that's expected to overtake Great Britain later this year to become the fifth largest in the world.

Meetings are scheduled with a number of Indian CEOs and business leaders, with visits to some of India's biggest tourist sites, including the famed Taj Mahal in Agra, Jama Mosque, and Sabarmati Ashram, one of the former homes of Mahatma Gandhi.

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Trudeau will not, however, be meeting the Indian politician who has publicly accused members of his cabinet of having links to the Sikh separatist movement.

Despite Indian media reports that Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh is to be Trudeau's tour guide at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, officials in the Prime Minister's Office say no meeting is planned.

The Hindustan Times, the largest English daily newspaper in India, reported Singh was to accompany Trudeau to the temple and a nearby museum.

"We have nothing planned with him at this time," said one Canadian official, speaking anonymously because they weren't authorized to discuss details of the trip publicly.

Last year, Singh refused to meet with Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, accusing him of supporting the pro-Khalistani movement, which advocates for an independent Sikh state. Earlier this month, Singh told Outlook India magazine that "there seems to be evidence that there are Khalistani sympathizers in Trudeau's cabinet."

Sajjan and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi, two of the four Sikh members of Trudeau's cabinet, pushed back hard against Singh's claim, denying that they were either part of the movement or that it was much of an issue at all in Canada's Indian communities.

Singh responded by saying he looked forward to having productive meetings with Trudeau on his trip. Canadian officials are giving no explanation for the decision not to meet him.

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The issue is a cloud hanging over Trudeau's first state visit to India. While Indian government sources insist he will be received warmly, they also note the government has only set aside part of a single day for official bilateral meetings during the seven-day trip.

Trudeau is scheduled to meet Feb. 23 with President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the presidential palace in Delhi.

Modi has raised the issue with Trudeau when the two have met on the sidelines of various meetings, including just last month at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. That meeting came just weeks after several gurdwaras in Canada officially barred Indian officials from entering the premises.

That ban set off a chain reaction with gurdwaras in the U.S., the U.K. and Australia following suit, accusing the Indian government of interference.

Canada's official line is that it supports a unified India, will not support any forms of extremism but will also not override the freedom of Indian Canadians to speak out in favour of a separate Sikh state if they wish, said the Canadian official.

The government wants the trip to be about far more than the Sikh independence ties. With 1.3 million Indian Canadians, the community is fast growing and influential both politically and economically in Canada; a successful trip would help Trudeau both at home and abroad.

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Trade between Canada and India has doubled in the last 10 years to about $8-billion in 2016. Preliminary free trade talks have been underway since 2010, but the visit is not expected to launch full scale negotiations, officials said this week.

Accompanying Trudeau is Sohi, Small Business Minister Bardish Chagger, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains and Science Minister Kirsty Duncan. Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland will meet the delegation in India.

The delegation does not include Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAulay, an omission that was not lost on Conservative Opposition critics Friday.

Earlier this month, India increased the import tariff on chickpeas to 40 per cent, up from the 30 per cent imposed in December to help producers deal with dropping commodity prices. A 50 per cent import duty has also been imposed on peas, leading to a sharp drop in imports, said Conservative international trade critic Dean Allison.

Trudeau must do more to secure market access for Canada's pulse producers, Allison said in a release.

More than a dozen Indian Canadian MPs are expected to join Trudeau in India for some or all of the seven-day trip. Trudeau's wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, and his children, Xavier, 10, Ella-Grace, 9, and Hadrien, 3, will also be on hand.

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