Visa to Atwal part of Govt outreach to misguided: MEA

by Abel Hampton March 10, 2018, 0:27
Visa to Atwal part of Govt outreach to misguided: MEA

The invite sent to Atwal read: "His Excellency Nadir Patel, High Commissioner for Canada to India is pleased to invite Jaspal Atwal to a dinner reception celebrating Canada-India ties on the occasion of the visit of The Right Hounourable Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada". After several days of silence, Atwal finally addressed the situation at his lawyer's office in Vancouver yesterday.

"I don't fault the press for the reporting, but I do want everyone to appreciate how hard it is for a person to become the centre of worldwide media attention", Atwal said, reading a statement next to his lawyer in Vancouver on Thursday.

Atwal on Thursday said that he contacted Liberal MP Randeep Sarai asking if there was a chance for him to attend Trudeau's reception in India.

Atwal, 62, said he was one of many Sikhs who got "caught up" in the separatism movement nearly 40 years ago.

"I had assumed there would be no problem".

"I am sorry for any embarrassment this matter has caused to Canada, India, my community and my family", Mr Atwal, 62, was quoted as telling reporters. Reading from a prepared statement, he said he was "shocked and devastated" when controversy exploded over his attendance at the event. He also said he no longer advocates for an independent Sikh nation. He said. "I want to again stress that this bad event that happened in the past is something I live with every day and I take complete responsibility for".

Atwal said he had "nothing but regret and remorse" for what the judge deemed to be an "act of terror". "No restrictions were placed by Canada on me so that I couldn't travel". Gill said Atwal went through the "proper channels" to get an invitation to the event, adding those who feign ignorance about his criminal past are being disingenuous.

"Atwal, a Canadian Sikh, visited India on a valid visa", Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, said on Friday.

Atwal said he has been active in Indo-Canadian politics for years - meeting with Liberal, Conservative and NDP politicians alike - and visited Parliament Hill three times in 2013 and 2014. Atwal said he had been photographed with "many politicians of all parties".

"He was a political embarrassment to the prime minister, that's obviously accepted ... but let's make sure this is on the record - Mr. Atwal presents absolutely no security threat to this country or any other country", Gill added.

"There are well established procedures for grant of visa to foreign travelers which have been followed in this case as well", he added. This was not his first visit to India.

Mr Atwal's visit also prompted "conspiracy theories" inside the Canadian establishment boosted by Ottawa National Security Advisor Daniel Jean's statement that "rogue" Indian officials were responsible for issuing the visa.

Sarai took responsibility for inviting Atwal and apologized for his lack of judgment, before resigning as chair of the party's B.C. caucus.

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