Defence minister Arun Jaitley on Tuesday told his Canadian counterpart Harjit Singh Sajjan that there was “considerable disquiet” in India over a motion passed by the Ontario Assembly recently describing the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as genocide.
Defence ministry sources said Jaitley raised the issue strongly with the Canadian defence minister, emphasising that the language used in the motion passed in early April was “unreal and exaggerated”. The matter was raised during delegation-level talks between the two countries.
The private members’ motion was moved by Harinder Malhi, the member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) from the riding (as constituencies are called in Canada) of Brampton-Springdale, near Toronto.
After a debate, the motion was carried with 34 MPPs (the equivalent of MLAs) voting in favour and just five against. Those present at a vote numbered just about a third of the assembly’s total strength of 107.
“The Canadian delegation was told that this sort of questioning of India’s democratic credentials was not in line with the relationship between the two countries,” sources said, adding Sajjan disassociated himself with the controversial resolution, saying it was a private member’s motion and did not reflect the view of the Canadian government.
The discussions between the two sides revolved around strengthening the bilateral military relationship, with focus on how Canada’s capabilities in defence production and manufacturing could lead to technology partnerships under the Modi government’s Make in India initiative. The talks covered several areas including cooperation in cold climate warfare, enhancing bilateral naval interaction and stepping up joint training.
Sajjan’s week-long visit to the country has been mired in controversy with Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh refusing to meet the Canadian minister, calling him a “Khalistani sympathiser”.
Responding to a question related to Khalistani terror, Sajjan said he did not want to be sucked into the internal politics of any country. He also said he did not promote the breaking up of any country. “I have been given many labels throughout my life and your actions define who you are,” he said at a function organised by the Observer Research Foundation.
“My goal is to build relationships as representative of the Canadian government and that is what I am here to do and I am also very proud of the fact that I was born here,” he added.