New Delhi: "It does hurt," says Harjit Sajjan, the visiting Canadian Defence Minister, when asked about whether he had any affiliations with the Khalistan movement. According to Mr Sajjan, who is a war veteran and has served several tours of duty in Afghanistan, "I served people who are the men and women in uniform. I've served alongside them. They know who I am and I'm not going to let anyone else define who I am for their political reasons. I have earned my recognition. I wear my history on my chest."
Earlier, in an interview to NDTV, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said he would not meet Mr Sajjan when he travels to Punjab later today. "When I went to America, and next I was to go to Canada, the Khalistani lobby got together, these Sajjans and the others. I am not going to meet him," said Captain Singh, adding "there are 5 ministers there who are Khalistanis. I am not interested in meeting any Khalistani."
Harjit Sajjan, who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Canadian Army, was born in Punjab and is travelling to Amritsar and his village Bombeli. Mr Sajjan had emigrated to Canada with his family when he was five years old and grew up in Vancouver where he went to serve with distinction with the police as a detective before joining the Canadian Army with whom he had three tours of duty in Afghanistan. Though deployed as a combatant, Mr Sajjan left his mark as an intelligence operative in the field. A 2006 letter from Canada's Coalition Task Force in Afghanistan identifies Mr Sajjan as "the best single Canadian intelligence asset in [war theater] theatre." It goes on to say Mr Sajjan's "hard work, personal bravery and dogged determination undoubtedly saved a multitude of Coalition lives."
After his meeting with Defence Minister Arun Jaitley yesterday, Mr Sajjan held meetings with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj. New Delhi has been concerned about a private member's bill in the Ontario provincial (state) assembly which referred to the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as being 'genocide'. Clarifying the position of the government of Canada, Mr Sajjan said, "In Canada, people who were elected can make their viewpoints but that is an Ontario legislature. We've been very clear on our stand as a Government. We're focused on building relationships with India."