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Trudeau reiterates claim that elements in India tried to sabotage visit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reiterated his position as the opposition Conservative Party tabled a motion in Parliament opposing Khalistani terrorism and supporting a united India.

world Updated: Mar 01, 2018 21:24 IST
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Anirudh Bhattacharyya
Hindustan Times, Toronto
India-Canada relations,Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,Jaspal Atwal
Canada's Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on February 28, 2018. (Reuters)

A day after India described as “baseless” the allegations by a senior Canadian national security official that “rogue” elements in New Delhi had used convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal to embarrass Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, the Canadian leader doubled down on having faith in such accusations on Thursday.

Trudeau reiterated his position as the opposition Conservative Party tabled a motion in Parliament opposing Khalistani terrorism and supporting a united India.

The annual budget presented by the finance minister was expected to dominate proceedings in the House of Commons, but instead Trudeau’s woes related to the fiasco in India shadowed him into the Parliament in Ottawa.

During a fierce 10-minute back-and-forth, opposition leader Andrew Scheer accused Trudeau of using the security official, identified by Canadian media as National Security Advisor Daniel Jean, as a “human shield for his terrible news cycle”.

Trudeau reiterated his position, one described by the external affairs ministry as “baseless and unacceptable”, as he said on the floor of the House: “We believe them when they put forward their information and their recommendations to us.” He also said he had “faith” in these officials and the information they provided.

Scheer fired back, “There has never been a government, Liberal or Conservative, who has used a national security official to clean up an embarrassing mess, self-inflicted by this prime minister.”

When he asked Trudeau whether the official had been sent out to brief the media at the behest of the Canadian PMO, Trudeau did not directly address the question and instead said, “Governments organise media briefings all the time”.

The line constantly adopted by Trudeau was that in questioning the accusations made by the official, the opposition was attacking the integrity of the public service.

Scheer asked Trudeau to “finally do the right thing and produce some kind of proof of his conspiracy theory”. Trudeau never directly addressed that matter.

The national security official, during a briefing in New Delhi, had accused “rogue” elements in the Indian government of trying to sabotage Trudeau’s trip. It had focused on the invitation to an official dinner reception at the Canadian high commissioner’s residence in New Delhi for Jspal Atwal, who had been convicted in 1987 of attempting to assassinate a visiting minister from India’s Punjab state.

Trudeau’s trip will continue to figure extensively in the House of Commons as the Conservative Party has tabled a motion that will be debated in the chamber.

The motion states that the House should “condemn in the strongest terms all forms of terrorism, including Khalistani extremism and the glorification of any individuals who have committed acts of violence to advance the cause of an independent Khalistani state in India; andstand with a united India”.

First Published: Mar 01, 2018 19:03 IST