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India raises concern with Harper over support in Canada for Sikh separatism

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is greeted by India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he arrives at Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) in New Dehli, Nov. 6, 2012.


India's junior foreign minister used a meeting with Stephen Harper to voice her country's continued anxiety about what it considers resurgent support in Canada for a separatist Sikh state in the Punjab region.

It's the latest in a string of efforts by Indian authorities, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, to press Ottawa to stay vigilant about Sikhs in Canada who favour the establishment of Khalistan.

"Prime Minister, there was another area of great concern for us, which was the revival of anti-India rhetoric in Canada," Preneet Kaur, Minister of State of External Affairs, told Mr. Harper.

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"I am from the state of Punjab, which we are very happy you will be visiting," she said, speaking from notes in front of a group of dignitaries and media.

"We have after very hard times got a good situation of peace and progress back in Punjab and in India and we would like that to continue – so it does concern us," Ms. Kaur said.

There's little disagreement between India and the Harper government on this file.

"I think we do appreciate very much that you have very been forthright and open about your stand on this," Ms. Kaur told the prime minister during the meeting at the ITC Maurya hotel in New Delhi.

"I think just to mention it to you so that we continue our common fight against terrorism."

Ms. Kaur didn't elaborate on what activities in Canada concern India.

However former Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh, a Sikh, warned more than two years ago that he believed Sikh extremism is rising in Canada.

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"It's more entrenched, it's more sophisticated and sometimes it's double-faced," he told Agence France-Presse in a 2010 interview.

In 2010 Mr. Dosanjh and another Sikh politician were publicly advised by the organizer of a Sikh parade in British Columbia that their safety could not be guaranteed if they chose to attend. Mr. Dosanjh, an outspoken moderate, had previously complained about a parade float that featured a picture of the alleged mastermind of the Air India Flight 182 bombing.

Mr. Harper, for his part Tuesday, assured the Indian minister that Canada was firmly behind New Delhi on the subject of Khalistan.

"In terms of the specific concerns that you raised, let me just be very clear, and I know I speak broadly for Canadians," Mr. Harper "Canada is a very strong supporter of a united India. This is a view that is shared not just widely in Canada but very widely and very mainstream among our Indo-Canadian community."

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