Trudeau offers prayers at Golden Temple; says no support for separatists
Amritsar, Feb 21 (IANS) Underlining the significance of the large and influential Sikh and Punjabi community settled in his country, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, accompanied by his wife and children, offered prayers at the Golden Temple on Wednesday.
Dressed in traditional Indian clothes and their heads covered, the Trudeau family bowed before the holy book of the Sikhs and tried their hand at making chappatis at the 'langar' as they spent over an hour at the holiest of Sikh shrines.
Trudeau, who later met Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh in a hotel here, said that his country did not support any separatist movement in India or elsewhere. Amarinder Singh later said that he raised the issue of 'Khalistan' and the support certain elements in Canada were giving to it to cause disturbance in Punjab.
"The categorical assurance from Trudeau came when Captain Amarinder Singh sought the Canadian Prime Minister's cooperation in cracking down on separatism and hate crime by a fringe element, constituting a miniscule percentage of Canada's population.
"Citing the separatist movement in Quebec, Trudeau said he had dealt with such threats all his life and was fully aware of the dangers of violence, which he had always pushed back with all his might," Chief Minister's Media Advisor Raveen Thukral disclosed after their 40-minute meeting.
Amarinder Singh thanked Trudeau for his explicit stand on a united India.
He also handed over a list of nine Canada-based operatives alleged to be involved in hate crimes in Punjab by financing and supplying weapons for terrorist activities, and also engaged in trying to radicalize youth and children here.
The Punjab Chief Minister also raised the issue of Indo-Canadians, believed to be involved in targeted killings in the state, urging him to initiate stern action against such elements.
Pointing out that trade and commerce relations between the two were very low at the moment, he urged Trudeau to take steps to push investment by Canadian businesses in Punjab. The two leaders agreed to collaborate through joint projects.
Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan and Punjab Local Government Minister Navjot Singh Sidhu were also present at the meeting.
Earlier, Trudeau and his family landed at the Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport here, where they were received by Union Minister Hardeep Singh Puri and Sidhu, and headed straight for the Golden Temple complex to offer prayers.
Accompanied by five Canadian federal ministers, including four of Indian-origin, Trudeau was received at its entrance by Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee president Gobind Singh Longowal, Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Food Processing Minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal.
Wearing an off-white embroidered kurta-pyjama and head covered with a "kesari" (saffron) headscarf, Trudeau entered the complex with wife Sophie, who was wearing a light turquoise kurta and white palazzo and their children, who were also wearing traditional Indian outfits to loud slogans of "Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal".
The Trudeaus first went to the "Langar Hall", where thousands of devotees partake langar (community food) and also do "sewa", and sat on small stools to knead flour and roll chapatis.
The Canadian Prime Minister also did "parikarma" before entering the sun-soaked and glittering all-gold sanctum sanctorum. The family bowed before the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh holy book that is considered as a living guru.
The Trudeaus were given "Siropa" (traditional robe of honour) by the head priest inside the shrine.
Trudeau also visited the Partition Museum here.
Tight security was in place in and around Amritsar for Trudeau's visit. Government security agencies and SGPC volunteers formed a tight security ring around him.
Besides the Trudeau-Amarinder meeting, which had remained uncertain till Monday evening, the other highlight was the Chief Minister meeting Sajjan, who was born in Punjab's Hoshiarpur district and is the first Sikh to handle the defence portfolio of a western country.
Amarinder Singh had refused to meet him during the latter's visit to the state in April last year and even dubbed him and other ministers of Punjab-origin in the Trudeau government as "Khalistani sympathisers".
On Wednesday, the Chief minister not only met Sajjan but also shook hands with him and both leaders smiled at each other, while the Amarinder Singh government went all out to accord a red-carpet welcome to Trudeau and his entourage.