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Jaspal Atwal came on valid visa, admits MEA

Jaspal Atwal  

Sikh separatist Jaspal Atwal visited India last month on a valid visa, the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) confirmed on Friday. The Ministry’s statement marks a significant departure from its earlier position where it had stated that the Government of India had “nothing to do” with Mr. Atwal’s visit.

The presence of the Khalistan activist at an official event in honour of visiting Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in Mumbai, had sparked a major diplomatic controversy.

“Jaspal Atwal has travelled to India on a valid visa. This was not his first visit to India. He has visited India on earlier occasions since January 2017,” MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said during the weekly press briefing here. The Ministry also said, “Established procedures for grant of visa to foreign travellers” were followed in case of Mr. Atwal.

Mr. Atwal’s presence had nearly wrecked the Canadian leader’s trip. Mr. Trudeau had indicated that he would hold an official inquiry into how the Khalistani activist’s visit to India coincided with his own.

India’s announcement is a reversal of its earlier stand that had placed the onus of Mr. Atwal’s presence in India with the Canadian government.

“Let me categorically state that the Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian High Commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian High Commissioner's reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable,” the official spokesperson had said on February 28.

India’s acknowledgement also raises questions on the exact reasons for the resignation of Liberal MP Randeep Sarai from the Pacific Caucus of Canada. Mr Sarai had earlier taken responsibility for inviting the former militant to India. The MP was also part of the Canadian premier’s delegation to India.

Mr Atwal’s visit also prompted “conspiracy theories” inside the Canadian establishment boosted by Ottawa National Security Advisor Daniel Jean’s statement that “rogue” Indian officials were responsible for issuing the visa. Subsequently, Mr Trudeau himself had supported the version of the events from his top officials.

According to the MEA’s, “ The Government of India has a conscious policy of outreach to the Indian Diaspora, including misguided elements, who in the past may have harboured anti-India sentiments, which they have since renounced.”

The visit of the Sikh separatist has already become a major political issue in Canada where he was the cause of minor controversies earlier.


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Printable version | Jan 26, 2022 11:40:56 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/jaspal-atwal-came-on-valid-visa-admits-mea/article23008768.ece

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