Diplomatic row erupts over Canadian invite to Khalistani separatist

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on February 22, 2018 Published on February 22, 2018

Atwal should not have been invited to dinner, says Trudeau, trying to defuse the ‘diplomatic disaster’

A diplomatic row erupted between New Delhi and Ottawa after it came to light that Khalistani separatist Jaspal Atwal had been invited by the Canadian High Commission to a dinner being organised in honour of visiting Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

The name of Atwal, a member of the Khalistani militia and was also one of the three convicted in 1987 for attempting to murder Akali Dal leader Malkiat Singh Sidhu, figured in the guest-list of a dinner reception being organised in Trudeau’s honour by Nadir Patel, the Canadian High Commissioner to India.

When the issue was detected, the invitation was quickly cancelled even as both Canada and India began blaming each other for the “diplomatic disaster”, sources told BusinessLine.

“Obviously, we take this extremely seriously. He (Atwal) should never have received an invitation. As soon as we received the info we rescinded it, a member of Parliament had included this individual,” said Trudeau, on the sidelines of a business event here on Thursday.

A statement issued by Trudeau’s office made it clear that Atwal was not part of the Prime Minister’s official delegation to India, nor was he invited by the Canadian PMO. “This individual should never have been invited to any event on the programme…As is the case with international trips, individuals sometimes travel on their own to the location of the visit. We are in the process of looking into how this occurred,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, India’s Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said it will “ascertain information” on how Atwal could manage to obtain an Indian visa to travel from Canada.

“There are two aspects to it — presence and visa. The Canadian side has already clarified that the invitation has been withdrawn. About the visa, I don’t know how it happened. We will ascertain information from our Commission,” said MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar.

Atwal was part of a dinner party in Mumbai where he was seen hobnobbing with Canadian First Lady Sophie Grégoire Trudeau and other ministers in the Trudeau administration.

However, Kumar said MEA will find out soon how Atwal managed to enter India.

“Let us not presume things and decide how he managed to come. This is something which we are trying to find out. In due course we will be able to come up with a reason that how he managed to come in India,” added Kumar.

Questions on why no background checks were done of the individuals present in the Canadian Prime Minister’s event, went unanswered.

The Indian government has accorded a lukewarm response to Trudeau’s visit ever since he landed here on February 17 with his family and a bevy of Cabinet ministers and businessmen. This is because the Indian government is miffed with Trudeau’s pro-Khalistani stance, sources said.

Published on February 22, 2018
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