Jaspal Atwal visited India on valid visa', says MEA

The visit to India by Atwal last month was his third in the recent past, the first being in January 2017.

New Delhi: India on Friday admitted that Jaspal Atwal, a Canadian national convicted earlier in Canada for an act of terrorism and whose presence at a function last month in Mumbai attended by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had caused a furore, had visited India on a “valid visa”, adding that this was part of a “conscious policy of outreach” to “misguided elements” who had given up their “anti-India sentiments”. The visit to India by Atwal last month was his third in the recent past, the first being in January 2017.

Controversy had hit Mr Trudeau’s India visit last month when it turned out that Atwal, convicted of shooting at a Punjab minister way back in 1986 in Canada, had also been invited to attend a dinner reception in New Delhi to be attended by Mr Trudeau.

The Canadian high commission had then swiftly withdrawn the invitation extended to Atwal. Jaspal Atwal was reportedly convicted in Canada for shooting at the then Punjab minister Malkiat Singh way back in 1986 Atwal was then apparently part of a banned radical Sikh militant group. The Canadia-ns had, however, then made it clear that Atwal was not part of Mr Trud-eau’s delegation to India. .

Sources had told this newspaper earlier that the name of Atwal was apparently removed from a “blacklist” earlier by the MHA as part of the outreach policy to now-moderate elements which resulted in Atwal being able to get an Indian visa.

On Friday, MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said, “Jaspal Atwal has travelled to India on a valid visa... He has visited India on earlier occasions since January 2014... The Government of India has a conscious policy of outreach to the Indian diaspora, including misguided elements who in the past may have harboured anti-India sentiments which they have since denounced...”

There are well-established procedures to grant a visa to foreign travellers which has been followed in this case as well.”

India had recently clarified, however, that Atwal was not invited at its behest to the functions of the Canadian high commission in New Delhi or Mumbai. The MEA had recently said, “We have seen the recent exchange in Parliament of Canada regarding two invitations issued to Jaspal Atwal by the Canadian high commissioner, for functions hosted in honour of the Canadian Prime Minister in India. Let me categorically state that the Government of India, including the security agencies, had nothing to do with the presence of Jaspal Atwal at the event hosted by the Canadian high commissioner in Mumbai or the invitation issued to him for the Canadian high commissioner’s reception in New Delhi. Any suggestion to the contrary is baseless and unacceptable.”

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