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Course correction: Captain -Trudeau meeting a win-win deal for both

The meeting holds significance for both the leaders as Trudeau, heading for polls next year, would have never liked to enter the poll campaign with a tag as head of a “separatists’ sympathiser” government.

punjab Updated: Feb 21, 2018 23:45 IST
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Gurpreet Singh Nibber
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Trudeau,Trudeau in Punjab,Canadian PM
Punjab CM Amarinder Singh shaking hands with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau and defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan during their visit to Amritsar on Wednesday.(ANI)

The meeting between Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on Wednesday saw both the leaders moving ahead of a rough patch that lasted for 10 months. In April last year, Amarinder refused to meet visiting Punjab-born Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan for being “a Khalistani sympathiser”.

The Liberals (the Liberal Party of Canada) did a course correction and it was received with much warmth by the Punjab CM. But the fact can’t be denied that attempts were made from both the sides to come closer, much before Trudeau’s India visit was planned.

The meeting holds significance for both the leaders as Trudeau, heading for polls next year, would have never liked to enter the poll campaign with a tag as head of a “separatists’ sympathiser” government.

Khalistanis, who are miniscule in number, easily manage emotional flare up in the larger Canadian Punjabi community. The Liberals hold them intact, saying they allow free speech. And for the rest – moderate Sikhs and Hindus, who are in sizeable number – the ministers in the Trudeau government, including Sajjan and Amarjit Sohi, declared they neither sympathise with nor espouse the separatists’ movement.

“We got a rousing reception in Punjab. Sikhs in Canada wants India to be great and sovereign. We are a free country and people have right to say anything, our government might not agree,” said Randeep Singh Sarai, Canada-born Sikh MP from Surrey. “Sikhs in Canada wants justice to the victims of 1984 riots and things have started moving in right direction,” he added.

For Amarinder, it was an opportunity to come clear of criticism that he gave a “shabby” treatment to Canada’s Sikh minister. He sees a revival of good public perception among the Canadian Punjabis, particularly the Sikhs, who gave him rousing welcome during his visit as the CM during his last tenure (2002-07).

Sikh historian Pirthipal Singh Kapur said: “Sikhs in India are 1.7% of the population, and 1.4% of that of Canada’s, and they influence voting pattern of each other’s country, among the Punjabi population. I think it’s a win-win situation for both Trudeau and Amarinder. Our CM was nervous for losing grip over the diaspora and Trudeau was heading for elections in his country,” he said.

Amarinder initially made it a point not to meet ministers of the Trudeau cabinet, but on being insisted by the Canadian high commission, it was agreed to have Sajjan also in the meeting, along with Trudeau. Navdeep Sohi, considered Trudeau’s right hand man for Punjab-Sikh planning, played a key role in bringing the three together.

Amarinder-Sajjan handshake moment has put a full stop on the controversy.

First Published: Feb 21, 2018 23:27 IST