External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Friday agreed to a demand by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh for opening up another passport office in Punjab to facilitate NRIs, the state government said on Friday. During a meeting with Singh, Swaraj also assured to look into the issue of blacklisted Sikhs settled abroad. The issues came up for discussion when Amarinder called on Swaraj in New Delhi to inquire about her health after her recent kidney transplant.
During the brief courtesy call, Swaraj, in response to the chief minister’s concern on the issue, also promised all possible efforts by the central government to ensure the safety and security of Punjabis and Sikhs living abroad. The proposed passport office in Nawanshahr will be in addition to the recently sanctioned passport office in Patiala which is set to be inaugurated soon, a spokesperson of the Punjab government disclosed after the meeting.
The Chief Minister expressed concern over the delay in removing the names of Sikh youth enumerated in government’s blacklist for their alleged involvement in “subversive or anti-India activities” in the past. These Indian-origin Sikh youth are barred from visiting India on account of being blacklisted. Swaraj said she would take up the issue with the Home Ministry, which was in the process of gradually pruning the list.
The matter of racist attacks on Punjabis and Sikhs settled in various countries also came up during discussions, with Amarinder urging Swaraj to take up the matter at the international level to protect victims of such assaults. Swaraj said her ministry was apprised of the issue and she had been personally pursuing the matter to ensure that Sikhs and Punjabis settled abroad are provided security by the respective governments of those countries.
The chief minister also raised the issue of setting up of Punjab-Israel working groups to boost cooperation for mutual benefit in the areas of security, agriculture and trade. The proposal to set up such groups had been made by Israeli ambassador Daniel Carmon at his meeting with Amarinder earlier on Friday, the spokesperson said.
The chief minister, at his meeting with the External Affairs Minister, underlined the importance of such groups in the broader national interest.