'Canada supports a strong and united India': Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland
New Delhi, Feb 22: Amid criticism faced by her Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his pro-Khalistan approach, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Thursday said that Canada "supports a strong and united India".
She said that Canada is "very, very proud" of its's diverse society, which includes the Sikh community.
Freeland said Canada is "mindful" of the menace of terrorism and the "scars and deaths" that India has endured, which she described as "mind-boggling". Her remarks came amid criticism faced by her Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for his pro-Khalistan approach. Freeland said the issue was discussed during her meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today.
"I did discuss the issue with the (Indian) foreign minister and I will leave it to her to comment on her impressions of the conversation. But I felt it was a very constructive and useful discussion we had," Freeland said.
She was responding to a question at an event organised by the Observer Research Foundation, a thinktank which provides analysis on security, strategy, economy, development, energy and resources. Last year, the Ontario Assembly in Canada carried a motion that described the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as "genocide", a move New Delhi termed "misguided".
Trudeau's participation in pro-Khalistani events have also not gone well with India. Trudeau, during his meeting with Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh yesterday, assured that his country did not support separatism in India or elsewhere, as he pitched for greater cooperation, according to an official.
"Our prime minister (Trudeau) has said on a number of occasions, at home and on this trip, that the foreign policy of the government of Canada is to support a strong and united India. And we are very clear about that," she said.
"Canada's foreign policy is clear and unambiguous in its support for a united India," she added.
Canada has more than 1.4 million people of Indian origin, a significant number of them being Sikhs. Referring to the Quebec separatism movement, Freeland said it is familiar with the challenges separatist forces throw.
"And, our own party is a federalist party that also believes in united and federal Canada. We are also very clear in our condemnation of terrorism of all forms," she said.
"I truly understand the concerns here in India and I do want to really underscore the fact that we in Canada, and my prime minister, whose name is Trudeau, whose father (Pierre Trudeau) was one of our great, great fighters for a united Canada," she added.
Freeland, who is a part of the delegation accompanying Trudeau, said Canada is "really, really proud" of its diverse society and welcomes Canadians from all communities, diverse backgrounds and different parts of the world.
"We are very proud that our high commissioner to India can speak in Gujarati to your Prime Minister (Narendra Modi). We think he is the only high commissioner who can do that and that is quite unique. One of the communities that is significant in Canada, which traces its roots to India, is the Sikh community which also contributes very much to our country," she said.
"India is rightly proud of itself as being a successful, plural, diverse democracy. In Canada, we pride ourselves on that as well. We are a diverse society. We are proud saying that our diversity is our (strength). We are really, really proud," she added.
Responding to another question on India-Canada Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), she said the two countries are in the middle of negotiating a Free Trade Agreement. Freeland said she had a discussion on this with Commerce and Industry Minister Suresh Prabhu. She said India now occupies an important role in the world and Canada would like to strengthen its relations with the largest democratic country and take the relationship to "a new level". She lauded India's efforts in the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission.