Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau gave a “categorical assurance” to Punjab chief minister Capt. Amarinder Singh at their Amritsar meeting on Wednesday that his country did not support any separatist movement in India or elsewhere. This assurance came as Mr Singh sought Mr Trudeau’s cooperation in cracking down on separatism and hate crime by fringe groups that constitute a miniscule percentage of Canada’s population.
Citing the Quebec separatist movement, Mr Trudeau said he had dealt with such threats all his life and was fully aware of the dangers of violence.
At their 40-minute meeting, Mr Singh handed over to Mr Trudeau a list of nine Category “A” Canada-based operatives allegedly involved in hate crimes in Punjab by financing and supplying weapons for terrorist activities, and also engaged in trying to radicalise the youth and children. Mr Singh urged Mr Trudeau to initiate stern action against such elements. The “Khalistan” issue featured prominently in the talks between the two leaders held at a hotel in Amritsar soon after Mr Trudeau paid obeisance at the Golden Temple and visited the Partition Museum.
“Really happy to receive categorical assurance from Canadian PM @JustinTrudeau that his country does not support any separatist movement. His words are a big relief to all of us here in India and we look forward to his government’s support in tackling fringe separatist elements,” Mr Singh tweeted after the meeting.
Significantly, Canada’s defence minister Harjit Sajjan and Punjab local government minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were also present. Capt. Amarinder Singh also shook hands with Mr Sajjan during the talks. Last year, Mr Singh had refused to meet the Canadian defence minister when he visited Punjab, accusing him of being a “Khalistani sympathiser”.
At Wednesday’s meeting, the chief minister raised the issue of Indo-Canadians believed to be involved in targeted killings in Punjab, urging the Canadian PM to initiate stern action against them. Mr Trudeau assured the chief minister that he would address all the concerns raised, saying he looked forward to closer ties with India, particularly Punjab, which he was happy to see progressing well, the CM’s media adviser Raveen Thukral told reporters.
Responding to the concerns raised in some quarters on reports of human rights violations, the CM said any aberrations were always dealt with strictly, with even policemen being sent to jail by the courts in such cases. He reiterated his government’s firm resolve to protect the human rights of all, Mr Thukral added.
The CM also pointed out to the scope of scaling up trade and commerce, urging Mr Trudeau to push Canadian investments in Punjab. The two agreed to collaborate through joint projects. Mr Singh identified higher education, scientific research, technology, innovation and skill development as some of these areas. With a large Punjabi diaspora settled in Canada, and some even finding place in Mr Trudeau’s Cabinet, relations between India and Canada continue to get stronger, he added. Mr Singh said 64,000 Canadian and 74,000 Indian soldiers who fought in the First World War lay buried together in 134 cemeteries, creating an unbreakable tie between the two countries.
The chief minister presented to the Canadian PM his own book Honour and Fidelity — World War I and Khushwant Singh’s History of the Sikhs. He also presented a Phulkari dupatta and a shawl to Mr Trudeau’s wife Sophie and several gifts to the couple’s three children.