Two prominent Canadian Sikh ministers clarified that they are not Khalistan supporters after an Indian magazine dedicated an entire edition on the issue ahead of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s visit to India. The statements from Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan and Infrastructure Minister Amarjeet Sohi come about a week before Trudeau’s scheduled trip to India from Feb. 17 to 23.
After the magazine issue came out, Sohi and Sajjan said that it was ridiculous to say that they supported the Khalistan movement. Sajjan said that Sohi and he “neither sympathize with nor espouse the Sikh nationalist movement, which is bent on creating a separate country called Khalistan in India’s Punjab region,” according to the Times of India.
In response, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said, “This indicated that the Canadian Prime Minister had clearly sent out a strong signal within his party and the government that he would not allow his country’s soil to be used for any anti-India activities.”
The Khalistan issue gained momentum recently after the Sikh diaspora banned Indian officials from entering gurdwaras after a British Sikh was arrested in Punjab. Jagtar Singh Johal was accused by the Punjab administration of being involved in targeted killings of non-Sikh religious leaders in the state. The state government also sought extradition of some NRIs from Canada for questioning regarding the same case.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has repeatedly condemned the Canadian government for allowing anti-India activities to be carried out in the country, and refused to meet Sajjan last year for being a Khalistan supporter. The Indian politician said recently that while he has no issues meeting Trudeau he wouldn’t meet the Sikh politicians involved in the movement to carve out a separate Khalistan country in Punjab.
It was earlier speculated that the Khalistan issue could shroud Trudeau’s first visit to India, which also features a visit to the Golden Temple at Amritsar. He will participate in several business roundtables to promote trade and investment between Canada and India. The two countries will also discuss education, infrastructure, skill development and space. However, there is no meeting scheduled with Singh even though Canada and Punjab have strong ties since a there’s a large Sikh population in the country.