Rejecting allegations that he supported Khalistan, Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan said on Tuesday that he did not promote the breaking up of any country.
“I don’t want to be sucked into the internal politics of a province of a nation,” he told the media when was asked about allegations that he was a Khalistani supporter.
“My goal is to build relationships. I am proud of the fact that I was born here.”
Sajjan arrived in India on Monday on a week-long visit. He will visit Punjab too.
The Sikh politician was dubbed a Khalistan sympathiser by Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who said he would not meet the Canadian minister.
Sajjan spoke at an event organised by Observer Research Foundation.
Pressed about Amarinder Singh’s allegation, Sajjan said: “I am not gonna get into petty politics of one CM or anybody.
“My reason for going into Punjab is to pay respect to Harminder Sahib... I want to pay respect to the village I was born. I am very very proud of my roots.
“Captain is chief minister and it is my responsibility to offer a meeting.”
Sajjan said the chief minister was free to decide whether he wanted to meet him or not.
“The relationship between Punjab and Canada is based on its people. No one can take away my village, my home, from me.”
On the Ontario assembly passing a resolution calling the 1984 anti-Sikh riots a genocide, Sajjan said: “We are a federation and the Ontario legislature is democratically elected. A private member moved a motion and that’s all it was.”
Earlier, Sajjan met Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley.
Speaking on their discussion, Sajjan said: “We had some very fruitful discussion ... on the great relationship that Canada and India have and how we can further this relationship.”
Talking about the possibilities in defence cooperation, he said: “India’s defence ties with Canada may be at a nascent stage but we certainly stand to benefit from your technological skills, your considerable aerospace technologies, simulation and modelling technologies, cold climate expertise, your culture of research and innovation.”
“All are areas that suggest possibilities where Canadian defence manufacturers can become an active part of the Make in India initiative.”
A veteran of Afghanistan and Bosnia, Sajjan, a decorated soldier, spoke about the Taliban and how to deal with extremist violence.
“Taliban is a small entity ... radical thinking that has sucked in a generation of young men into their ranks.”
Pressed on Afghan peace efforts, Sajjan said: “It is up to the Afghan government to have formal discussions with the Taliban about reducing the conflict. It is their choice to make.
“But if you don’t have discussion, they may be dealing with the conflict for a very long time.”