AMRITSAR (INDIA), Feb. 21: Putting to rest all speculation, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh met Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at a private hotel in Amritsar on Wednesday. In the 40-minute meeting, Amarinder raised the Khalistan issue with Trudeau with the latter assuring him that Canada did not support any separatist movement in India or elsewhere.
Amarinder had been reluctant in meeting anyone from the Canadian administration, saying he was not interested in meeting anyone with a soft approach to those camapigning for a separate Khalistan movement. Last year, Amarinder did not meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan Singh during the latter’s visit to the state.
A press statement issued by the Punjab government stated that Amarinder sought the Canadian Prime Minister’s cooperation in cracking down on separatism and hate crime by a fringe element.
Trudeau, for his part, cited the separatist movement in Quebec and said he had “dealt with such threats all his life and was fully aware of the dangers of violence, which he had always pushed back with all his might”.
The Punjab CM also handed over to Trudeau a list of nine Category `A’ Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in hate crimes in Punjab by financing and supplying weapons for terrorist activities and also engaged in trying to radicalise youth and children here.
During the meeting, where Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan and Punjab Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were also present, the Chief Minister raised the issue of Indo-Canadians believed to be involved in targeted killings in Punjab, urging him to initiate stern action against such elements.
Amarinder pointed out that people fighting elections on the plank of a separate Sikh state ended up losing their security deposits. “The Canadian Prime Minister assured Captain Amarinder of addressing all concerns raised by the latter, saying he looked forward to closer ties with India, particularly with Punjab, which he was happy to see progressing well,” said the press note.
Amarinder called for cooperation between India and Canada on the issues of terrorism, crime, and drugs, while seeking greater sharing of relevant information, in the interest of national and international security.
Earlier in the day, Trudeau visited the Golden Temple along with his family and delegation of ministers. So far, his weeklong visit to India is being talked about for the lukewarm welcome it has received from the government. The Canadian PM, however, said he was well-received at the Golden Temple. “What an honour to be so well received at such a beautiful, meaningful place. We are filled with grace and humility,” he wrote in the Golden Temple visitors’ book.
Trudeau was also honoured inside the sanctum sanctorum of Golden Temple.
Apart from his wife Sophie Grégoire and three children, Trudeau is being accompanied by Ministers Harjit Sajjan, Navdeep Bains, Bardish Chagger, Kirsty Duncan, and Amarjeet Sohi and 15 Members of Parliament of Canada.
Dressed in Punjabi attire, Trudeau and his delegation reached Golden Temple just before 12 noon where they were received by the SGPC delegation, including SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal and former deputy chief minister Punjab Sukhbir Singh Badal.
SGPC and Punjab Police had made special arrangements for the visit. A human chain of SGPC employees separated devotees from the delegation on the temple premises. Trudeau and his family were first taken to the community kitchen where the family tried their hand at making chapatis. Devotees welcomed Trudeau with chants of Bole So Nihal while Trudeau responded with Sat Sri Akal and Waheguru ji ka Khalsa , Waheguru ji ki Fateh. He was then taken inside Golden Temple where he was honoured with a siropa by head priest Jagtar Singh.
Trudeau also visited the Partition museum and spent about 25 minutes there. He left a note on the Tree of Hope that read the Museum is “a poignant reminder that dividing people is never the answer; we must learn to live together and love our differences.” TIE