Amid ‘Khalistani’ row, Sajjan plays up his Sikh roots, looks forward to India visit
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Canadian defence minister Lt Col Harjit Sajjan are both soldiers-turned-politicians locked in a battle of perception. The Indian media has been quick to highlight Amarinder’s dubbing Sajjan a ‘Khalistani sympathiser’ as the reason for his not meeting him when he comes visiting India, including Punjab, next week.punjab Updated: Apr 15, 2017 12:34 IST
Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh and Canadian defence minister Lt Col Harjit Sajjan are both soldiers-turned-politicians locked in a battle of perception. The Indian media has been quick to highlight Amarinder’s dubbing Sajjan a ‘Khalistani sympathiser’ as the reason for his not meeting him when he comes visiting India, including Punjab, next week. The Canadian media has restricted itself to the official line of expressing disappointment over the ‘inaccurate’ description.
Sajjan is yet to join issue with Amarinder but he tweeted twice on April 14 on the occasion of Baisakhi, playing up his Sikh roots. In the first tweet, he greets followers: “Waheguru Ji Ka Khalsa, Waheguru Ji Ki Fateh! The equality we celebrate on #Vaisakhi is a value shared by all Cdns. Bons souhaits Vaisakhi!” He has aptly attached a photo of himself enjoying the festivities in a gurdwara.
The second tweet six hours later is official in nature where he says: “Had a fruitful and productive meeting with @VikasSwarup, India’s High Commissioner to Canada, in advance of my upcoming trip to India.” He posted a photo along with the tweet in which he is seen warmly shaking hands with Swarup.
Punjab-born Sajjan is scheduled to travel to New Delhi and Punjab from April 17 during which he will hold talks with defence minister Arun Jaitley. The next day he is to speak on ‘Conflict prevention and peacekeeping in a changing world’ at a think-tank in Delhi. India and Canada will explore cooperation in cold climate warfare, peacekeeping, participation in Defence Staff College training, besides defence research and development.
Amarinder’s concern over Sikh radical groups remaining active in Canada is also expected to come up during official interactions but the Punjab chief minister has reiterated his stand of not meeting Sajjan.
In a statement issued in Chandigarh on Friday, Amarinder said the state government was monitoring the activities of Khalistani sympathisers and others having links with extremist forces inimical to India. “My decision (to not meet Sajjan) is based on these reports. He will be provided security as per protocol but I will not be meeting him,” he said.
Amarinder said the criticism by the Sikh Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Shiromani Akali Dal and the Aam Aadmi Party, which got an overwhelming support from NRIs, including those in Canada in the recent elections, is “misleading propaganda”. He blames Sajjan and four Sikh ministers in the Justin Trudeau cabinet for scuttling his visit to Canada before the Punjab elections.