Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has reaffirmed Canada’s support for “a united India” in a meeting with an Indian official who has accused the Canadian leader of supporting Sikh separatists.
Trudeau met Amarinder Singh, chief minister of the Indian state of Punjab, on Wednesday – one of several stops during his first official visit to India.
Singh stoked controversy earlier this year when he alleged that ministers within the government of Canada back the Khalistani movement, which wants an independent Sikh homeland in the state of Punjab for members of the religious group.
During the meeting in Amritsar, a city in the state of Punjab, Trudeau “conveyed his support for a united India, stressing the desire to see positive collaboration on issues of mutual concern”, his office said in a statement.
“The Prime Minister and the Chief Minister shared their commitment to strengthen people-to-people ties through our cultural and ethnic diversity,” the statement said.
Trudeau was joined in the meeting by Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of defence, who is Sikh.
Both Canadian officials refuted Singh’s allegations that cabinet ministers in Trudeau’s government are Sikh separatists, calling the claims “extremely false”, the Canadian Press (CP) news agency reported.
— Harjit Sajjan (@HarjitSajjan) February 21, 2018
Singh, meanwhile, said on Twitter he received a “categorical assurance” from Trudeau that Canada “does not support any separatist movement”.
“His words are a big relief to all of us here in India,” Singh wrote.
Really happy to receive categorical assurance from Canadian PM @JustinTrudeau that his country does not support any separatist movement. His words are a big relief to all of us here in India and we look forward to his government’s support in tackling fringe separatist elements.
— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) February 21, 2018
Most Indian-Canadians are originally from Punjab state, CP reported.
Earlier this week, Singh said he hoped his meeting with Trudeau would strengthen “close Indo-Canadian business ties” and the strong “people-to-people” relationships between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the World Sikh Organization of Canada, a non-profit that advocates on behalf of Sikh-Canadians, rejected accusations of “radicalism” within the Sikh community in Canada in the run-up to Trudeau’s visit to India.
“The Sikh community in Canada is incredibly engaged in every facet of Canadian life, and there is nothing to indicate any rise in radicalism,” said Mukhbir Singh, the group’s president.
“These bizarre allegations made against Canadian Sikhs are incredibly damaging and result in actual harm against the community.”