Nothing to do with invite to Atwal during Trudeau visit: India
New Delhi, Feb 28: India today said it had nothing to do with the presence of convicted Khalistan militant Jaspal Atwal at an event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation extended to him for a reception by the envoy here, asserting that any suggestion to the contrary is “baseless and unacceptable”.
India’s firm assertion on the issue came a day after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau faced questions from opposition in the Canadian Parliament over the controversy and reports that he was standing by a senior who suggested that factions within the Indian government were trying to sabotage his recent India visit.
“We have seen the recent exchange in the Parliament of Canada regarding two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian High Commissioner, for functions hosted in honour of the Canadian Prime Minister in India.
“Let me categorically state that the Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner’s reception in New Delhi,” External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said.
He added, “Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.”
Kumar said this in response to a query on the controversy which erupted last week after Atwal was photographed with Trudeau’s wife Sophie Gregoire at the event in Mumbai and then an invite extended to him to the dinner reception at the Canadian High Commissioner’s residence in Delhi.
As the invite for the reception to the convicted Khalistan militant triggered a huge controversy in the midst of Trudeau’s visit, Canadian High Commissioner Nadir Patel cancelled the invite to Atwal.
According to a report in Canadian newspaper ‘The Star’, Trudeau is standing by a senior government official who suggested factions within the Indian government were involved in sabotaging the prime minister’s visit to India.
It said, however, Trudeau accepted the offer of Liberal MP Randeep Sarai to step down as chair of the Pacific Caucus, taking responsibility for the invite to Atwal.
A report in ‘Vancouver Sun’ said that in a background briefing arranged by the Prime Minister’s Office, a government official last week suggested that Atwal’s presence was arranged by factions within the Indian government who wanted to prevent Prime Minister Narendra Modi from getting too cosy with the Canadian government, believing that it is not committed to a united India.
Atwal was a Sikh separatist active in the banned International Sikh Youth Federation when he was convicted for attempting to murder Punjab minister Malkiat Singh Sidhu in Vancouver in 1986.