Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan, who is on his maiden official visit to India, today reiterated that the 1984 riots were "clearly horrific and deeply regrettable."
Sajjan's seven-day visit to India which began today has been laden with controversies with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh saying he would not meet him alleging that the Canadian Minister is a "Khalistani sympathiser".
His visit comes in the backdrop of a resolution passed by the Legislative assembly of Ontario in Canada recognising the anti-Sikh riots in 1984 as "genocide".
In an interview with the Times of India, Sajjan a Sikh himself, said that the violent events of 1984 are an "extreme example of religious intolerance and inter-communal violence, and had a tragic outcome."
When asked to comment on Indian government's rejection of the resolution, Sajjan said, "The events of 1984 were clearly horrific and deeply regrettable. The importance of seeking justice for the victims should not be diminished. The promotion and protection of human rights around the world remains an integral part of Canada's foreign policy and our government attaches great importance to freedom from all forms of discrimination and religious intolerance. We respect cultural, ethnic, and religious differences."
Sajjan, who has served in the Canadian armed forces, has been accused by Amarinder Singh of being a "Khalistani sympathiser".
While the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) alleged that Amarinder's statements against Sajjan showed he was executing the orders of the ‘Gandhi family’, Congress said there was enough "documentary and circumstantial evidence on record" to prove Sajjan's "Khalistani leanings".
Canada has termed the allegations against its minister as "disappointing and inaccurate".
During the Sajjan’s visit starting today, India and Canada will explore ways to deepen bilateral defence and security cooperation.
Sajjan will have wide-ranging talks with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on a range of bilateral issues, particularly on ramping up defence and security ties.
"I look forward to my first trip to India since becoming Canada's Minister of National Defence. This visit will further strengthen Canada and India's bilateral defence cooperation, and expand our partnership in the security and defence sectors," he said, before leaving for India.
Sajjan will also travel to Amritsar, Chandigarh and Mumbai.
In Punjab, Sajjan will visit the Golden Temple and civil society organisations, while in Chandigarh, he will inaugurate the new office of the Consulate-General of Canada.
In Mumbai, the minister will visit the Mumbai Port, and meet several business and industry leaders.
His visit comes a week after a diplomatic showdown between India and Canada over 1984 riots.
Earlier this month, the Legislative assembly of Ontario passed a motion extending the official recognition to the riots as Sikh "genocide" in India, which strongly rejected the move terming it as "misguided".
A motion by Harinder Malhi, a Liberal member of the provincial parliament in Canada, read, "That, in the opinion of this House... should reaffirm our commitment to the values we cherish - justice, human rights and fairness - and condemn all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 Genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs throughout India, and call on all sides to embrace truth, justice and reconciliation."
India lodged a strong with protest with Canada and termed the resolution “misguided”, which is based on the limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process.
“We reject this misguided motion which is based on a limited understanding of India, its constitution, society, ethos, rule of law and the judicial process,” said external affairs ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay.