External Affairs

Not in India to Play Petty Politics: Canadian Defence Minister on ‘Khalistani’ Row

Harjit Singh Sajjan’s remarks come a week after the Punjab chief minister accused him of being a “Khalistani sympathiser”.

Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan. Credit: Reuters

Canadian defence minister Harjit Singh Sajjan. Credit: Reuters

New Delhi: Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, on Tuesday, neatly side-stepped recent allegations raised by Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, saying that he wasn’t in India to get into “petty politics” and that there was no “ill-will” on his part.

Sajjan, who was born in the Hosiarpur district of Punjab before emigrating with his family to Canada as a child, is in India this week to deepen and enhance defence and security ties between both countries.

What has shadowed his visit are a series of remarks made by Amarinder Singh, who last week accused Sajjan of being a “Khalistani sympathiser”. On a TV show last week, Singh pointed out that Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s government had five Sikh ministers who were all Khalistani sympathisers.

“Harjit Sajjan is a Khalistani sympathiser. There are, in fact, five ministers in the Justin Trudeau government, I will not have any truck with them. These Khalistani sympathisers had prevailed upon the government to prevent my entry into Canada, where I wanted to go to meet my Punjabi brethren and not to campaign for elections,” Singh reportedly said.

Sajjan, who on Tuesday met his counterpart Arun Jaitley and external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj, declined to comment directly on the Punjab chief minister’s remarks. Part of his India visit will also include a trip to Punjab where he will visit the Golden Temple and his native villages.

“I’m not here to get into petty politics. My reason of going to Punjab is to pay respect. I’m a Sikh and I wish pay respect to the village I was born in. I’m very very proud of my roots,” he said at a media interaction in New Delhi.

The Canadian defence minister also obliquely hinted that he was still open to meeting with the Punjab chief minister, even though Singh has specifically stated that while protocol would be followed, he would refuse to meet Sajjan.

“I have been given many labels in my life. I also have been taught to show courtesy to the leadership of a country and I do this around the world. It is my responsibility to offer up a meeting (to the Captain) and if he decides he doesn’t want to meet me ..that’s for them to figure out. My actions and services speak for me..there is no ill will from me,” Sajjan told the media here.