In his bilateral meeting with the visiting Canadian Defence Minister Harjit Singh Sajjan on Tuesday, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley strongly raised India’s disquiet about a resolution on India’s human rights record passed by Canada’s Ontario provincial assembly earlier this month. The resolution had called the 1984 anti-Sikh riots as “genocide”.
According to Defence Ministry sources, Jaitley told his Canadian counterpart that “there was considerable amount of disquiet in India over the resolution”. He also told Sajjan that “the language used in the resolution showed a highly unreal and exaggerated analysis of the situation” in India.
The Defence Minister, sources said, expressed the government’s grave concern at the fact that such a resolution was passed in a fellow liberal democracy. Notwithstanding the fact that it was a private member’s bill and passed in a provincial legislature, Jaitley told the visiting minister that such a critical reference went against the spirit of India-Canada relations. This questioning of India’s democratic credentials won’t help in building the right atmosphere for the bilateral relations between the two countries of high democratic standing, he further told Sajjan.
The Canadian Defence Minister on his part, sources said, was at pains to dissociate himself from the resolution. He assured the Indian government that it was a private member’s bill in a provincial assembly and reflected neither the views of the Canadian government or the provincial Ontario government.
The Indian community in Canada, Sajjan told the Defence Minister, was represented well in the government and which was fully committed to bilateral relations with India. He further explained that the resolution must be seen in the context of provincial elections, and not much should be read into it as only 34 legislators had voted for it. Earlier this month, Ontario legislature had passed a motion that condemned “all forms of communal violence, hatred, hostility, prejudice, racism and intolerance in India and anywhere else in the world, including the 1984 genocide perpetrated against the Sikhs”.
The two defence ministers, sources said, agreed that defence cooperation was a promising area to take forward. They agreed to explore opportunities for industry cooperation in defence and for greater military-to-military interaction.