Breaking his silence on the controversial invite to convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal for a dinner at Canadian High Commission in New Delhi, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the event unfortunate. Trudeau said that Atwal never should have received an invitation by the High Commission.
Atwal was convicted for 20 years in prison for trying to kill the then Punjab Cbinet Minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986. Atwal even had confessed that he was the shooter. He was also a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, which is now banned.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said India is trying to find out how the convicted Khalistani terrorist managed to get a visa. "Canadian side has already clarified that the invitation has been withdrawn. About the visa, I don't know how it happened. We will ascertain from our Commission," the MEA spokesperson said.
The invite to Atwal for the Delhi dinner was rescinded after it created a furore. The Canadian High Commission said, "We have rescinded Jaspal Atwal's invitation (for dinner reception with Canadian PM Justin Trudeau in Delhi). We do not comment on matters relating to the PM's security."
Atwal no longer figures in the Home Ministry's blacklist of Sikh extremists. The central government time-to-time reviews the blacklist of the Sikh extremists taking into account intelligence inputs and activities of the persons concerned, a home ministry official told PTI. Names of nearly 150 wanted terrorists and their associates were removed from the blacklist in the last few years, it said.
Speculations have been running rife about the possible reason for the cold shoulder meted out to Canadian PM Justin Trudeau by the Modi government. One of the reasons is Trudeau's less-than-ambiguous stand on the Sikh separatist movement.
This controversy could not possibly have emerged in a worse possible time. Only yesterday, the PM met Punjab CM Amarinder Singh, who had been vocal about his displeasure with Trudeau's stand on the Khalistan movement. Singh had even refused to meet Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan last year when he was visiting India, and called him a "Khalistani sympathiser".
Nevertheless Trudeau had said in an event, "We of course reject violence and hate speech. But at the same time let me assure that my position, Canada's position, has not changed. We support one, united India." The Canadian MPs who have accompanied Trudeau on this visit are also on the same page and have said that they believe in a "united India".
After the meet with the Canadian PM yesterday, CM Amarinder Singh had said that he raised the Khalistan issue during the long meeting. Singh gave Trudeau a list of nine Category A operatives based in Canada who are involved in hate crimes, terror activities and are trying to radicalise the youth.
The CM's office had also said after the meeting that categorical assurance from Trudeau came when Captain 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.
Photographs of Atwal with Canadian PM Trudeau's wife Sophie Trudeau in an event on February 20 has emerged.
Atwal was also photographed with Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Soni during the same event in Mumbai.
Jaspal Atwal, a convicted Khalistani terrorist who was active in the banned Int'l Sikh Youth Federation, photographed w/Canadian PM's wife Sophie Trudeau at an event in Mumbai on 20 Feb. He was also invited for formal dinner with Canadian PM, invite being rescinded now (CBC News) pic.twitter.com/pT7P3eLq1L- ANI (@ANI) February 22, 2018
The invite specifies that the dinner reception in Delhi was to celebrate Canada and India ties on the occasion of Trudeau's visit.
Canadian Minister of Infrastructure and Communities Amarjeet Sohi, photographed with Jaspal Atwal at in Mumbai on 20 Feb. Atwal, a former member of banned terrorist group Int'l Sikh Youth Federation, was invited for dinner with #JustinTrudeau in Delhi, today (CBC News) pic.twitter.com/cO3h3YcUUA- ANI (@ANI) February 22, 2018
Jaspal Atwal was convicted of the attempted murder of Punjab minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, on Vancouver Island in 1986, he was one of four men who ambushed & shot at Sidhu's car. (Pic: Invite to Jaspal Atwal for dinner with Canadian PM #JustinTrudeau, Source: CBC News) pic.twitter.com/dqZpWEwgls- ANI (@ANI) February 22, 2018