Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan is no mood to engage into a slanging match with Punjab chief minister captain Amarinder Singh on the ongoing “Khalistani sympathiser” controversy.
Sajjan, who is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi on Monday, will go ahead with his Punjab visit as per the plan and will remain focused on “strengthening ties between Canada and India”.
“My trip to India is focused on strengthening bilateral relationship between the two nations and deepening collaboration in defence and security, innovation, culture, and trade,” Sajjan responded to HT query emailed to him on Thursday evening.
The Canadian defence minister, however, ducked all questions related to the unsavoury controversy triggered by the Punjab CM’s statement regarding “Khalistani leanings” and a few other members of the Justin Trudeau cabinet. HT had emailed 11 questions to the Canadian minister through the Canadian high commission in New Delhi, asking him to clarify about his alleged links with Sikh radicals as alleged by Amarinder that he left the country during days of turmoil in Punjab, his father Kundan Singh was a member of a radical body, World Sikh Organisation (WSO), and how would his visit benefit Punjab.
Sajjan, however, chose to write a three-para reply, in which he said: “I am looking forward to my first trip to India since becoming Canada’s minister of national defence. This visit will further strengthen Canada and India’s bilateral defence cooperation and boost the ties that bind our two countries so strongly. I hope to have fruitful meetings with leaders in Indian politics, business and civil society.”
On Wednesday, Amarinder had said he won’t meet Sajjan during his India visit as he was a “Khalistani sympathiser”. The next day, the Canadian high commission termed Amarinder’s remarks “inaccurate” and “disappointing”. To this, Amarinder said “the state government would provide full security to Canadian minister and also ensure that he gets due treatment as per protocol, but I would not be seen hobnobbing with a Khalistani sympathiser”.
Shiromani Akali Dal president Sukhbir Singh Badal had asked Amarinder not to act “petty and spiteful” and give Canadian minister the respect he deserves.