Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, who has had a contentious history with Canada and its government, met Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau on Wednesday. The two leaders discussed the strong bond that exists between Punjab and Canada, largely due to an influential Punjabi community settled in Canada.
Trudeau met Amarinder for a one-on-one meeting at a local hotel in Amritsar. The two discussed business as well as people-to-people ties.
Speaking to ANI after a 30-minute-long conversation, Amarinder said that he was very impressed with the Canadian prime minister. He said that a range of issues and proposals were discussed, including investment prospects in the service sector, dairy farming, agriculture and trade with the state of Punjab.
"He is very sincere and willing to work alongside Punjab. I hope he will take our talks forward," Singh said.
The Khalistan question
However, it has been over the issue of Khalistan and Sikh separatism that daggers have frequently been drawn between Punjab and Canada. "I also raised the issue of Khalistan as it's the primary issue, as there is money coming in from various countries including Canada that then helps create unrest in Punjab," Singh said, according to ANI.
According to NDTV, Amarinder also interacted with all six ministers accompanying Trudeau. After the chief minister said he raised the Khalistan issue with Trudeau, the Canadian prime minister reportedly assured that Canada does not support any separatist movement in India or elsewhere.
Amarinder also gave Trudeau a list of nine Category 'A' Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in hate crimes, terrorist activities and trying to radicalise young people and children in Punjab, the chief minister's media advisor Raveen Thukral told NDTV.
"The categorical assurance from Trudeau came when Amarinder sought the Canadian prime minister's cooperation in cracking down on separatism and hate crime by a fringe element, constituting a miniscule percentage of Canada's population," said the Chief Minister's Office after the 40-minute meeting.
Amarinder's office also said Trudeau cited the separatist movement in Quebec and had said that he had dealt with such threats all his life and was fully aware of the dangers of violence, NDTV added.
The Trudeau-Amarinder meeting is being seen as a step towards breaking the ice, a report in Hindustan Times said. "Citing the separatist movement in Quebec, Trudeau 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," Thukral said.
During the meeting, Amarinder called for cooperation between the two countries on issues of terrorism, crime and drugs, while seeking greater sharing of relevant information, in the interest of national and international security.
"Responding to concerns raised in some quarters on reports of human rights violations, the chief minister 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 commitment to the protection of human rights of all individuals," Thukral was quoted as saying by Hindustan Times.
Apart from meeting Trudeau, Amarinder also met Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, who was born in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district and is the first Sikh to handle the defence portfolio of a western country.
Amarinder had refused to meet Harjit in April 2017 during the latter's visit to the state and even dubbed him and other ministers of Punjab-origin in the Trudeau government as "Khalistani sympathisers".
On Wednesday, however, the chief minister not only met Sajjan but also shook hands with him and both leaders smiled at each other.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Feb 22, 2018 16:24 PM