Chandigarh (PTI): Calling Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan a “Khalistani sympathiser”, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said he would not meet him during his expected visit to India later this month.
“Harjit Sajjan is a Khalistani sympathiser and so was his father,” Amarinder Singh said during a program on a private TV channel.
“There were, in fact, five ministers in the Justin Trudeau government who were Khalistani sympathisers and I will not have any truck with them,” he declared.
Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) chief Sukhbir Singh Badal reacted strongly to the “irresponsible statement” by asking Amarinder Singh not to act in a “petty and spiteful” manner and give the defence minister of a sovereign country the respect he deserved.
He said: “Amarinder should not have let a personal incident cloud his judgement and he should have refrained from making disparaging remarks against Sajjan as well as all other Punjabi representatives in the Canadian parliament.”
Punjabis worldwide were proud of their elected representatives in Canada and Sajjan was an example of personal accomplishment for the entire Punjabi diaspora, Sukhbir added.
“He (Sajjan) should not be shown disrespect in this manner,” the former Punjab deputy chief minister said here.
Describing such stands as “counter-productive”, he warned that it would not augur well for Punjab and come in the way of trade and bilateral relations with Canada.
“Moreover, it is not in the fitness of things for senior political leaders to show such rancour. One can take a lesson from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was denied visa by the US, but that did not make him bitter towards that country. In fact, he has gone out of the way to improve the relations between India and the US,” said Sukhbir.
Punjabis worldwide expect Amarinder to behave similarly, show political statesmanship and use his office to improve the relations with Canada, not ruin them, he added.
If the Centre and the other states are giving due respect to Sajjan, so should Amarinder and the Punjab government, the Akali leader said.
“This is the least that is expected of them, considering Sajjan is from their state,” he added.
Sukhbir also mentioned how the previous SAD-BJP government in Punjab had witnessed a number of visits by Punjabi ministers from Canada.
“We had always accorded due respect to visiting dignitaries and even invited elected Punjabi representatives from around the world to the NRI [Non-Resident Indian] sammelans [functions] to focus on the issues of NRIs and find solutions,” he said.
The AAP [Aam Aadmi Party] also slammed the Chief Minister, saying it reflected Amarinder Singh’s “vindictiveness” towards Punjabis living in the North American country.
“It is unfortunate. Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has not only insulted the Canadian defence minister, but Punjabis in general and Sikhs in particular, who have already proved their mettle in foreign land, not only in the business sector but in the political arena by getting elected as MP to become ministers,” Punjab AAP spokesman Sukhpal Khaira said.
The “outburst” against Sajjan, is Amarinder being “vindictive” towards NRIs living in Canada as they did not welcome him during his pre-poll visit to the country, he alleged.
“The Captain [Amarinder Singh] must understand that the people of Canada not only elected Harjit Sajjan as MP, but he also represents the government of Canada. As Chief Minister, he should welcome the visiting the defence minister,” Khaira said.
Amarinder has also alleged that “these Khalistani sympathisers had last year prevailed upon the authorities to block his entry into Canada.”
Khaira demanded that Amarinder immediately withdraw his remarks against Sajjan.
The AAP leader said as the party’s chief whip he would organise a welcome for the Canadian defence minister if Amarinder continued to stay adamant.