Canadian PM Justin Trudeau to meet Punjab CM Amarinder Singh in Amritsar on Wednesday
The development comes days after the Canadian media reported that Trudeau will not meet Amarinder.
Punjab chief minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday announced that he will meet Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on his visit to Punjab on February 21, ending days of uncertainty.
Amarinder’s announcement on Twitter, followed by a statement from his office, came days after the Canadian media reported that Trudeau, who is on a visit to India from February 17 to 23 and is to visit Amritsar on February 21, will not meet Amarinder. Trudeau and his family are scheduled to pay obeisance at the Golden Temple, considered the central shrine of the Sikhs, a community which, within the larger Indo-Canadian community, plays a significant role in the country’s power circles, reflected in the fact that the Canada has four Sikh ministers.
Officials said that the chief minister would hold a meeting with the Canadian prime minister at a hotel in Amritsar after Trudeau pays obeisance at the Golden Temple, a visit that the visiting PM aims to keep a “quiet affair”, officials said.
This represents a thaw also because Amarinder had refused to meet Canadian defence minister Harjit Sajjan during the Punjabi-origin leader’s visit to the state last year; and even accused Sajjan of being a “Khalistani sympathiser”. In 2016, when Amarinder Singh was the state Congress chief, he had written a strongly-worded letter to the Canadian PM, lodging a protest on being denied permission for interaction with NRIs in Canada in the run-up to the assembly polls. Days before Trudeau’s visit now, his Sikh ministers had issued a statement denying any backing for the secessionist movement.
Amarinder has now directed the state administration to roll out the red carpet for the visiting dignitary, and deputed a team of top administrative officers to receive him. He wrote on Twitter, “Look forward to meeting Canadian Prime Minister @JustinTrudeau in Amritsar on Wednesday. I’m hopeful that this meeting will help strengthen the close Indo-Canadian business ties as well as the deep-rooted people-to-people relations between our two countries.”
Trudeau is accompanied on the India visit by wife Sophie Gregoire Trudeau and three children,Ella-Grace, Xavier and Hadrien. He is also expected to visit the Partition Museum, officials said, adding that he would land at the Amritsar airport in morning and would return to Delhi by 2 pm.
At the their meeting, Amarinder and he are expected to discuss steps to “intensify the close relations between the people of the two countries”, according to a spokesperson of the chief minister’s office (CMO). “Punjab has deep roots with Canada, where a large Punjabi community is settled, and has always striven to strengthen connect,” the spokesperson quoted Amarinder as saying.
The CM’s statement also referred to the Canadian PM’s apology two years ago in his country’s parliament for the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which scores of Sikh, Muslim and Hindu passengers in a ship were denied entry to Canada and forced to return to India, where they met a violent fate. Amarinder said it was a gesture that “underlined the depth of the relations between the two countries, which Wednesday’s meeting would help in consolidating further”.
Meanwhile, the opposition SAD chief Sukhbir Singh Badal is expected to welcome the Canadian prime minister at the Golden Temple. “He will honour Trudeau as party president of the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD),” said spokesman and former minister Daljit Singh Cheema.
The Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) has planned special event in the honour of Trudeau when he visits the Golden Temple. SGPC, an apex religious body of the Sikhs, will honour Trudeau by presenting him a siropa (robe of honour), a replica of the Golden Temple and a sword, its officials said.
(with PTI inputs)