The visit of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to India has been hit by another controversy over a dinner invitation extended to Jaspal Atwal, who is a convicted Khalistani terrorist. Canada’s High Commission to India cancelled the dinner invite to Atwal for the dinner reception scheduled to be held in New Delhi today. The cancellation came after a photograph of Atwal posing with Canadian Prime Minister’s wife Sophie Trudeau in Mumbai surfaced.
The huge embarrassment comes just a day after Canadian PM Justin Trudeau assured Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh that he and his government does not support Canada based Khalistani separatists. Matters are expected to further complicate as Trudeau is scheduled to meet Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Friday. Modi already let his annoyance known over Trudeau's support to Canada based Sikh militants seeking a separate state of Khalistan by not tweeting about Trudeau's arrival and sending a much junior minister to receive him at the airport.
Jaspal Atwal was convicted for the attempted murder of Punjab minister, Malkiat Singh Sidhu, on Vancouver Island in 1986. He was one of four men who ambushed and shot at Sidhu’s car.
At that time, he was a member of the International Sikh Youth Federation, banned as a terrorist group in Canada, the UK, the US and India. He has also been convicted in an automobile fraud case and was charged, but not convicted, in a 1985 near-fatal attack on Ujjal Dosanjh, an opponent of the Sikh separatist movement who later became premier of British Columbia.
Randeep Sarai, MP of Surrey Centre in Canada, submitted Atwal's name to the High Commissioner to be added to the guest list for the dinner-reception. The Vancouver-born Sarai is one of 14 MPs travelling with Trudeau on his official visit, confirmed CBS News.
According to reports, the controversy erupted after pictures of Atwal posing with Trudeau's wife, Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, emerged at an event with the Indian film industry in Mumbai yesterday.
The Canadian PM attempted some damage control, when he said at an event that Canada is strongly committed to ‘one united India’ and is serious about cracking down on extremism.
“Canada has been unequivocal, both myself, all my ministers, our government on a policy of one united India. We have, we have been very strong on that and we'll continue to be,” said Trudeau.
Earlier, Trudeau met Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amrinder Singh at Amritsar, who raised the Khalistani terror issue in the meeting.
Punjab Chief Minister Singh submitted a list of nine Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in target-killings and other hate crimes in Punjab, including financing and supplying of weapons for terrorist activities, an official said. He urged Trudeau to initiate stern action against such elements.
The Canadian premier assured the Punjab chief minister that his country did not support “any separatist movement in India or elsewhere,” said Raveen Thukral, the chief minister’s media advisor.