PM: Invitation should not have gone to Sikh extremist

According to a report in CBCnews, Jaspal Atwal, the man at the centre of the controversy, is a former member of the terrorist organisation International Sikh Youth Federation (ISYF) founded by Amrik Singh, the nephew of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a slain Sikh militant who advocated for a separate Sikh state of "Khalistan".

The latest controversy erupted as photograph of Canadian Prime Minister's wife Sophie Trudeau with convicted Khalistani terrorist Jaspal Atwal emerged at a Mumbai event.

But whatever good will was earned by this effort was no doubt at the very least dented by the news on Thursday that Khalistani extremist Jaspal Atwal had been invited to two official receptions during Trudeau's visit.

What made matters worse for the Canadians was that Atwal had also been invited to a reception hosted on Thursday evening by high commissioner Nadir Patel at Canada House in the national capital. "I should have exercised better judgment, and I take full responsibility for my actions".

Questions around security are being raised after a convicted felon was invited to a dinner with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in India.

Trudeau has been spending a lot of time this week dispelling the idea being pushed by some Indian politicians that Canada is a haven for Sikh extremism.

Maintaining that both countries were "committed to pursuing and upholding democracy", he said that Canada and India were the world's two largest democracies, one by size and one by population.

A trial court convicted him and sentenced Atwal and others to 20 years' imprisonment.

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While Modi did not accompany Trudeau to Ahmedabad, a meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh at Amritsar on Wednesday was organised only at the last moment.

It is unclear how Atwal was able to wrangle a visa to visit India.

Modi also said that he looks forward to meeting his children Xavier, Ella-Grace, and Hadrien.

Many observers have suggested that Trudeau's perceived cold-shouldering may have been the result of growing concern within official India that the Liberal government is too soft on the so-called Khalistani cause, a Sikh separatist movement in Punjab.

Swamy also questioned Canadians' stand about not supporting Khalistan.

Trudeau has previously boasted that his cabinet has more Sikhs than Modi's and Canadian Sikh activists have succeeded in passing bills in provincial legislatures describing the anti-Sikh riots that followed Gandhi's assassination as a "genocide" - terminology India balks at. "As soon as we received the information we rescinded it", he said, further adding that a Canadian member of parliament, Randeep Sarai, included Atwal in the list of invitees.

Noting the lack of a welcome from PM Modi, Toronto Sun columnist Candice Malcolm tweeted: "On official state visits to India, PM Modi personally greets and welcomes the Israeli PM, UAE Crown Prince and US President".

  • Rosalie Stanley