Chandigarh (IANS): India has sought a response from the Canadian government about why two Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs in Punjab were denied entry to Canada at the Ottawa airport.
India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said the Indian mission had been told to find out “the circumstances and reasons for this deplorable action by the Canadian immigration authorities”.
This followed a letter from Punjab Assembly Speaker Rana K.P. Singh after AAP MLAs Kultar Singh Sandhwan (Faridkot) and Amarjit Singh Sandoa (Ropar).were denied entry at the Ottawa International Airport on July 21.
In a letter to the Speaker, Swaraj said the Indian High Commission in Ottawa had taken up the matter with the Canadian government.
She said: “We take all matters pertaining to members of our legislative bodies very seriously. In fact, the moment I was apprised of the treatment meted out to the two AAP MLAs by the Canadian authorities, my office immediately contacted the High Commissioner in Ottawa to ascertain the facts.
“I fully agree with you that elected members of our Assemblies deserve to be treated with courtesy and respect whenever they travel abroad.
“The Canadian Foreign Office has sent the (Indian) mission an interim response stating that ‘consultations with the Canadian Border Services Agency are ongoing to determine a comprehensive response’.
“Our Mission will continue to pursue this issue with the Canadian side to ensure that such incidents do not recur in the future.”
The Speaker has advised all the MLAs to follow the prescribed procedure while going abroad, including obtaining political clearance from the External Affairs Ministry and providing prior information to Indian missions abroad, even on private visits.
Swaraj pointed out that Indian diplomats in Canada were unaware of the visit of these two MLAs.
“Neither was the Indian External Affairs Ministry informed of the visit nor the requisite political clearance sought,” she pointed out.
LAST July, The Tribune reported that the MLAs told the media that the authorities were not convinced about the purpose of their visit. “Accompanied by Sandoa, Sandhwan had reportedly gone to visit his sister who lives in Ottawa. Sandoa is facing a case of alleged molestation. State co-convener [of AAP] Dr Balbir Singh said Sandoa had taken permission from a Ropar court to go abroad.”
The Indian Express newspaper said that Sudeep Singla, AAP spokesperson in Toronto, told their reporter: “What we have learnt is that both were to stay with the sister of Kultar Singh Sandhwan in Ottawa and she was waiting to receive them. However, after hours of questioning, she was informed that both were being sent back.”
Sandhwan told the media: “I was not deported, due to a communication gap and me being an MLA they got confused whether it’s my political visit or personal visit, they told me next time I should come with prior information about my schedule.”
The newspaper also pointed out: “The Congress government in Punjab has accused state AAP leadership of being ‘close’ to separatist Sikh outfits overseas, most of them being pro-Khalistani organisations based in North America. In June, Khaira faced flak over his remarks on ‘Referendum 2020’, a campaign launched by US-based organisation Sikhs for Justice.”