Media mars Canadian PM’s ‘dhaba food’ diplomacy

Filed on November 4, 2012

CHANDIGARH - He would have savoured spicy chicken curry and dal tadka with tandoori naans and rotis at a popular dhaba (roadside eatery) here but security concerns and “media leaks” have knocked this off the menu of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper during his visit here November 7, during which he will pray at the Takht Keshgarh Sahib, the second most important Sikh shrine after Golden Temple, at Anandpur Sahib, 80 km from here.

“The dhaba visit has unfortunately been cancelled. He being a G-20 leader, there were a lot of security issues involved. It’s not happening now,” Shiv Raj who works in Harper’s office and is here as part of the advance party, said.

“Information about the dhaba visit got leaked through the media. It had to be cancelled,” said Canadian consul general in Chandigarh Scot Slessor.

Slessor, who is himself a great lover of Punjab dhaba food, said: “I have eaten there (Pal dhaba). The food is amazing. I have eaten in many dhabas across Punjab and Haryana.”

Canadian officials here said that the dhaba visit was part of the cultural aspect of Harper’s visit to Punjab. The dhaba owner had recently spruced up the area around it in anticipation of the Canadian prime minister’s visit.

The only silver lining for Harper is that he can get traditional Punjabi food in packed form during the visit. “That is still a possibility,” an official said. “The prime minister loves India. He wants relations with India to be strong,” Shiv Raj said.

Harper had visited Amritsar in 2009 and offered prayers at the Harmandar Sahib, popularly known as the Golden Temple.

Canadian officials here said that Canada enjoyed strong relations with the Punjabi community, with thousands of Punjabis settled in Canada.

Tight security arrangements will be in place for Harper’s visit. Canadian and Indian security agencies, as also the Punjab and Chandigarh police, will be involved in the effort.

Harper, who is visiting India November 3-9, will arrive here November 7. He will visit Takht Keshgarh Sahib the same day. Harper will offer prayers at the Sikh shrine, famous as the birth-place of the Khalsa Panth, the modern-day Sikh religion, before visiting the Virasat-e-Khalsa Sikh heritage museum, nearby. It was at Anandpur Sahib on April 13, 1699, that the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh, baptised the first five Sikhs (Panj Piaras) and founded the Khalsa.

He will return to Chandigarh the same day and leave for Bangalore the next day.

He will be accompanied by his wife, two ministers of Indian-origin — Bal Gosal (sports) and Tim Uppal (democratic reforms) — and other dignitaries.

Harper will also be visiting New Delhi and Agra.

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