Editorial By- Sukhpreet Giani
What could have been a visit to remember, no longer is. Having been elevated to the Federal minster in an adopted country, the visit to the native land where the parents still reside, could have been an impressive trip, but for some utterances by the new elected Chief Minister of Punjab.
Both are tall leaders with standing of their own. Both share a military background too. One has been at the frontline in war -ravaged Afghanistan as a Lt Colonel in the Canadian Army; the other has seen war from close quarters as a Captain in the Indian Army. But it seems that the ongoing visit of the Canadian defense minister Harjit Sajjan to Punjab, the land of his birth, has led to a political war of sorts with Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh taking potshots at defense minister Harjit Sajjan.
The Liberal Leader is one of the four Sikh cabinet members of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Born in a village in Punjab, Harjit Sajjan came to Vancouver with his older sister and mother. He was elected as an MP from Vancouver South. Harjit Sajjan’s rich experience with Canadian forces would prompt any Canadian and for that matter any Indian would be excited to meet the Canadian Defence Minister. Harjit Sajjan has had a rich understanding of combating crime as a decorated police officer in Vancouver. As a Lieutenant-Colonel in Canada’s armed forces, he was deployed in Bosnia-Herzegovina and in Afghanistan. He played a larger role in reducing Taliban influence in Afghanistan and was bestowed upon with the top military honors. He has been in the thick and thin of reducing the impact of International terrorism.
For a person of such an immaculate profile by branding a Punjabi Sikh heading Canada’s defense as a “Khalistani Sympathizer”, Capt. Amarinder Singh the Chief Minister of Punjab has not only stunned a large number of Sikhs in Punjab and overseas worldwide, but has given a new definition to terrorism. Capt appears to have dealt a blow of the highest standard to all channels of diplomacy. Capt didn’t leave much to imagination, when he cited the reason for his not willing to meet Harjit Sajjan. No ideological differences! The reason for his rather hard stand dates to as recently as last April when his visit of Canada was scuttled at the last minute after the authorities in Ottawa denied him permission to visit. The intent of the visit was to address rallies and meet with Punjabi Canadians in the run-up to the Punjab assembly elections. Capt. feels that pro-Khalistan political leaders of Punjabi origin, including Sajjan, secretly backed the move by radical elements to deny him entry into Canada. Capt. knows the real reason but cited one from his own imagination. He would recollect that the move from Ottawa came when in July 2015, then Punjab NRI affairs minister and Shiromani Akali Dal MLA Tota Singh, who was on a visit to the US along with other senior members of the party’s delegation, was attacked with shoes and stones in New York by a group of Sikhs. Similar reaction was there in Surrey, BC too. Ottawa in a move to not let similar instance take place with any other visiting leader, had not allowed Capt Amarinder Singh to visit.
The response from Harjit Sajjan has been sober. When hounded by media in India to responds to Capt’s jibe, defense minister said that he didn’t want to be sucked into the internal politics of any country. He also said that he didn’t promote the breaking of any country. “I have been given many labels throughout my life and your actions define who you are,” he said at a function held by the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi.
Capt. Amarinder Singh should have remembered his visit in 2004 to Canada, where the Community had gone all out to accord the warmest of welcome where ever he had gone across Canada. Capt should have remembered that 18 Indo Canadians have made it to the parliament of Canada, while his state Punjab sends only 13 to the lower house at Delhi. The Sikh community in Canada only makes two percent of the total population. Still Harjit Sajjan rose to that position through his sheer dedication and love for Canada. Capt’s boycott aside, I am sure many Indians during his visit would like to meet him; many Indo Canadians would like to meet Harjit Sajjan, as people with such profile and grace are a boon for humanity. The minister grew in stature with his cultural identity intact in Canada and with his moderate response to the word play by the Chief Minister.