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Ban on Indian officials is gurdwaras’ internal matter: Australian envoy

The Punjab-origin Australian envoy, who started her four-day tour to Punjab, also performed ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) by baking chapatis at the community kitchen in Amritsar.

punjab Updated: Feb 17, 2018 21:52 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Harinder Sidhu,Amritsar,Australia’s high commissioner
Australian high commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu paying obeisance at Golden Temple in Amritsar on Saturday.(Sameer Sehgal)

Australia’s high commissioner to India Harinder Sidhu on Saturday started her four-day tour to Punjab by paying obeisance at the Golden Temple in Amritsar on Saturday.

On her first official visit to Amritsar, the Punjab-origin envoy also performed ‘sewa’ (voluntary service) by baking chapatis at the community kitchen.

Replying to a query on alleged ban on entry of Indian officials in some gurdwaras in Australia, Sidhu said she was aware of such a development in only one gurdwara.

“This, in any case, is an internal matter of respective gurdwara committees,” she said.

After a group claiming to represent more than a dozen gurdwaras in the Canadian province of Ontario collectively resolved to “bar” officials representing India, its diplomats and others from entering the premises of these places of worship last month, there were reports of some Australia-based gurdwara’s also following suit.

Punjabis fastest-growing community in Oz

Expressing happiness over the visit, Sidhu said: “It is very special for me to be here as the high commissioner, having taken birth in a Sikh family.”

Claiming that Punjabis comprise the fastest-growing community in Australia, she said: “There are gurdwaras in every nook and corner of the island nation.”

Sidhu said safety of foreign students remain the Australian government’s top priority. She said the government is taking incidents of attack on Indian students very seriously. “No such incident has been reported in recent times,” she said.

Sidhu said 68,000 Indian students have gone to Australia for studies in 2017, pointing to favourable atmosphere prevailing there.

The high commissioner will also be visiting Ludhiana’s Borlaug Institute for South Asia. She said she is looking forward to advancing mutual cooperation in agriculture sector.

“My visit will work towards strengthening cooperation in management of resources, animal husbandry and dairy farming,” she said.

First Published: Feb 17, 2018 21:27 IST