Capt Amarinder may not be in Justin Trudeau’s welcoming party in Amritsar | punjab | top | Hindustan Times
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Capt Amarinder may not be in Justin Trudeau’s welcoming party in Amritsar

Just as Amarinder refused to meet Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan during the latter’s trip to India last April, the likelihood of another Indo-Canadian minister Navdeep Bains being part of Trudeau’s entourage is problematic for the Punjab CM.

punjab Updated: Jan 24, 2018 10:05 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya and Navneet Sharma
Capt Amarinder Singh and Justin Trudeau.
Capt Amarinder Singh and Justin Trudeau. (HT Photo)

While a visit to the Golden Temple will be among the landmark stops on Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s itinerary during his February bilateral engagement with India, it’s likely that the welcoming party in Amritsar will not include Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh.

Just as Amarinder refused to meet Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan during the latter’s trip to India last April, the likelihood of another Indo-Canadian minister Navdeep Bains being part of Trudeau’s entourage is problematic for the Punjab CM, sources pointed out.

Amarinder blames Bains and some others for playing a role in preventing his visit to Canada in 2016 to reach out to Punjabi NRI community in the run-up to the assembly elections in Punjab. The Canadian authorities had put a spanner in his trip on the grounds of legal bar on political canvassing by foreigners. Capt responded by writing a strongly-worded letter to the Canadian prime minister in which he blamed the pro-Khalistan elements for playing spoilsport.

Indian officials, though, are hoping that Amarinder will not go public with these concerns prior to or during Trudeau’s visit so that it is not marred as in the case of Sajjan’s visit.

In April 2017, the chief minister also named Bains among the Canadian political leaders “well known for their leanings towards the Khalistani movement”.

Raveen Thukral, media adviser to the Punjab chief minister, said the state government still has not received any official word on Trudeau’s visit to India. “We have only seen media reports. As the CM has stated earlier, if the Canadian PM comes to India and does choose to visit Punjab, he’s most welcome to do so. And if there’s an official request for a meeting, the same will be treated on par with any such request from dignitaries at the same level,” he said.

Thukral said the Punjab government will use such opportunity to raise its concerns over hardline Sikhs and pro-Khalistani elements using the Canadian soil to instigate trouble in Punjab.

The situation may be further complicated by the possibility of Sajjan also joining in during the visit.

Amarinder had stirred a controversy during Sajjan’s visit by accusing him of having pro-Khalistan sympathies and that same logic applies to Bains. In addition, there will also be the presence of over a dozen Indo-Canadian MPs with similar “suspect” antecedents, sources said.

Amarinder has also made it clear that he expects Trudeau to formally disavow the Khalistani movement in Canada and that is unlikely to happen particularly with elections to the Ontario Assembly due this summer. In fact, the member of the Ontario Assembly who moved a motion to term the anti-Sikh riots “genocide”, Harinder Malhi was recently promoted to the post of minister in the provincial government run by the Liberal party.

Indian officials, though, are hoping that Amarinder will not go public with these concerns prior to or during Trudeau’s visit so that it is not marred as in the case of Sajjan’s visit.