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25 May 2017

Free ticket, apology from Canada

TT, New Delhi, May 24: Canada today apologised to a retired CRPF officer it had sent back from Vancouver airport alleging that the agency committed human rights violations and handed him a free return ticket as part of damage-control measures following India's protests.
Canadian deputy high commissioner Jess Dutton invited Tejinder Singh Dhillon, who retired as inspector-general from the CRPF in 2010, to the country's mission here to apologise and suggest that the decision to deny him entry was a mistake made by junior officials.
Dhillon had a valid Canadian visa and was travelling to Vancouver from Amsterdam, where he had visited with his family.
But on May 18, immigration officials at Vancouver airport stamped "cancelled" over the visa that is valid till 2024. He was put on a flight to India on May 20, though his wife was allowed to enter Canada.
Today, the Canadian high commission stamped the words "cancelled without prejudice" over the earlier message. The new stamp overruled the May 18 cancellation of the visa.
Dutton handed Dhillon an air ticket to fly to Vancouver tonight and return on May 29, dates the former CRPF officer accepted.
The camaraderie at the high commission followed intense diplomatic consultations in New Delhi and in Ottawa over what was threatening to emerge as the latest flashpoint between the two countries - close friends that have bickered over human rights in the recent past.
Canada's immigration department, in refusing to allow Dhillon entry, had contended that as a senior officer of the CRPF till 2010, he could not have been unaware of the agency's actions.
The agency, the immigration department said, "committed widespread and systemic human rights abuses - for example torture, arbitrary detention, murder and sexual assault".
India had protested that description of the CRPF, and the denial of entry to Dhillon.
"Such a characterisation of a reputed force like the CRPF is completely unacceptable," foreign ministry spokesperson Gopal Baglay had said yesterday. "We have taken up the matter with the government of Canada."
Canadian high commissioner Nadir Patel too had yesterday indicated that the denial of entry to Dhillon was not a reflection of Canada's approach to India or the CRPF. But Patel had yesterday also described "human rights" as part of the shared values that bind India and Canada.
Behind the scenes, though, the Indian foreign office was holding talks with Canadian officials to argue that anything less than a full-fledged retraction of the May 18 decision could hurt bilateral ties, months before Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is expected in India.
In Ottawa, Indian high commissioner Vikas Swarup spoke with officials in the Canadian foreign ministry. In New Delhi, Munu Mahawar, the joint secretary in charge of relations with North America in the foreign ministry, reached out to the Canadian mission.
The denial of entry to Dhillon was the latest in a spate of incidents that rocked ties with the Trudeau government. The legislature of Ontario, Canada's most populous state, had passed a resolution accusing India of "genocide" against Sikhs during the 1980s.
Then, news reports had surfaced linking the parents of Trudeau's defence minister, Harjit Sajjan, to a pro-Khalistan organisation in Canada.
Earlier this month, Trudeau had attended a meet organised by a pro-Khalistan body that praised Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale, a Sikh preacher-turned-militant who became a figurehead of the Sikh separatist movement.

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