NEW DELHI – Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s much-anticipated trip to India began on Saturday amid uncertainties over his meeting with Chief Minister of Punjab Amarinder Singh.
Trudeau took his family to the Taj Mahal of Agra on Sunday and is scheduled to tour the Golden Temple at Amritsar during the week-long visit.
Asked about Trudeau’s meeting with Chief Minister Singh, a source familiar with the Canadian side said that “uncertainties prevail” on this.
The Canadian leader’s problems with the Punjab Chief Minister stems from the latter’s criticism of alleged pro-Khalistan sentiments of Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan.
During the April 2017 India visit of Sajjan, a prominent Sikh member and Defence Minister of the Canadian government, the Chief Minister had described him and other Sikh Cabinet members of Canada as sympathetic to Sikh separatist groups or the Khalistanis.
Sajjan is accompanying Trudeau during this trip along with other Sikh Cabinet colleagues, Amarjeet Sohi and Navdeep Singh Bains.
On reaching India, in a social media message, the Canadian Defence Minister posted a photograph of him with other Indian-origin Ministers and said, “Looking forward to spending the next few days here to further strengthen Canada and India’s strong cultural and economic ties.”
Problems over the meeting with the Chief Minister came while the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) indicated that “all issues of bilateral interest” will be discussed with Trudeau.
In response to a question over growing Khalistan-related activities in Canada, the MEA spokesperson said on Friday, “I can tell you that all issues that are of interest to us, which are of bilateral interest will be up on the agenda between the two sides.”
Earlier, media reports from Canada had indicated that the Chief Minister was expected to accompany Trudeau during his Amritsar trip, but the programme was not firmed up till Sunday.
The visit by Mr. Trudeau was anticipated since 2014 but did not materialise even though other Cabinet colleagues had come here during the last four years.