NEW DELHI — Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan April 18 rejected allegations that he supported the Sikh nationalist movement for the independent state of Khalistan, saying "I don't promote the breaking up of any country."
When asked about the allegations, Sajjan told the media, "I don't want to be sucked into the internal politics of a province of a nation. My goal is to build relationships. I am proud of the fact that I was born here."
Sajjan arrived in India April 17 for a week-long visit, during which he will visit Punjab.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh accused the Canadian minister of being a Khalistan sympathizer and has said he will not meet with him.
Sajjan spoke at an event organized by Observer Research Foundation.
"I am not gonna get into petty politics of one CM or anybody, " Sajjan responded when asked about Amarinder Singh's allegation.
"My reason for going into Punjab is to pay respect to Harminder Sahib... I want to pay respect to the village I was born. I am very very proud of my roots," he said.
"Captain is chief minister and it is my responsibility to offer a meeting," he added.
Sajjan further said the chief minister was free to decide whether he wanted to meet him or not.
"The relationship between Punjab and Canada is based on its people. No one can take away my village, my home, from me."
Regarding a resolution passed by the Ontario assembly to call the 1984 anti-Sikh riots a genocide, Sajjan said: "We are a federation and the Ontario legislature is democratically elected. A private member moved a motion and that's all it was."
Earlier, Sajjan met his Indian counterpart Arun Jaitley.
"We had some very fruitful discussion ... on the great relationship that Canada and India has and how we can further this relationship," Sajjan said about the meeting.
"India's defense ties with Canada may be at a nascent stage but we certainly stand to benefit from your technological skills, your considerable aerospace technologies, simulation and modeling technologies, cold climate expertise, your culture of research and innovation," he said regarding the possibility of defense cooperation.
"All are areas that suggest possibilities where Canadian defense manufacturers can become an active part of the Make in India initiative," he added.
A decorated soldier and veteran of Afghanistan and Bosnia, Sajjan also spoke about the Taliban and how to deal with extremist violence.
"Taliban is a small entity ... radical thinking that has sucked in a generation of young men into their ranks," he said.
"It is up to the Afghan government to have formal discussions with the Taliban about reducing the conflict. It is their choice to make," Sajjan said when asked about the Afghan peace efforts.
"But if you don't have discussion, they may be dealing with the conflict for a very long time," he added.