'Political convenience shouldn't determine response to terrorism': India at UNGA amid Canada row

EAM S. Jaishankar says territorial integrity cannot be cherry-picked

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar speaks at the  United Nations General Assembly External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar speaks at the United Nations General Assembly

In a strong message to Canada, the country which India has accused of sheltering extremist Khalistani elements, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said political convenience cannot determine a nation’s response to terrorism, extremism or violence. 

The minister’s remarks, made at the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Tuesday, came amid a massive diplomatic row between New Delhi and Ottawa over the killing of Khalistan separatist Hardeep Singh Nijjar in British Columbia in June. Nijjar, a Canadian citizen, is wanted in India on charges of terrorism.

Jaishankar stressed on the need to respect territorial integrity and called for non-interference in internal affairs.

"... nor must we countenance that political convenience determines responses to terrorism, extremism and violence. Similarly, respect for territorial integrity and non-interference in internal affairs cannot be exercises in cherry-picking. When reality departs from the rhetoric, we must have the courage to call it out... without genuine solidarity, there can never be real trust," he said.

The relationship between India and Canada hit a new low last week over Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s allegation of a potential Indian link to the killing of Nijjar.

India reacted sharply to Trudeau’s claims, calling them “absurd” and “politically driven”. New Delhi also expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official over the case.

India had designated Nijjar a terrorist in 2020.

‘India as Vishwa Mitra’

In his address at the UNGA, Jaishankar said India has evolved from the era of non-alignment to the "era of Vishwa Mitra" or a friend to the world.

"This is reflected in our ability and willingness to engage with a broad range of nations and where necessary harmonise interests. It is visible in the rapid growth of the QUAD; it is equally apparent in the expansion of the BRICS grouping or emergence of I2U2...," he said. 

The minister said the days  when a few nations set the agenda and expected others to fall in line won’t go unchallenged, underlining  that its Presidency of the G20 sought to focus on key concerns of the many. He said India had taken on the G20 Presidency in December 2022 with a sense of exceptional responsibility.

"As it is, structural inequities and uneven development have imposed burdens on the Global South. But stresses have been aggravated by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and the repercussions of ongoing conflicts, tensions and disputes. As a result, socio-economic gains of recent years have been rolled back,” he said.

The New Delhi G-20 Leaders' Declaration articulates our collective ability to do so, Jaishankar said, referring to the joint declaration adopted by consensus at the Leaders' Summit in Delhi on September 9 and 10.

"At a time when East-West polarisation is so sharp and North-South divide so deep, the New Delhi Summit also affirms that diplomacy and dialogue are the only effective solutions. The international order is diverse and we must cater for divergences, if not differences. The days when a few nations set the agenda and expected others to fall in line are over,” he said.

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