'They made it very difficult for us': Jaishankar defends India amid diplomatic row with Canada

Indian diplomats are being intimidated in Canada, EAM says in US

AP09_29_2023_000050B External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar speaks with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Washington | AP

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar, who is currently in the US, addressed the heightened diplomatic tensions between India and Canada and said that both governments will have to discuss and resolve the problem. Jaishankar, however, minced no words as he called out the issue of “permissiveness” in Canada which allows terrorists to get open “operating space” in the country.

During an interaction with journalists in Washington, he said India was ready to look into the information related to Canada's allegations of the "potential" involvement of Indian agents in the killing of Khalistani extremist Hardeep Singh Nijjar on June 18 in British Columbia. “But what we do not want to see is an incident treated in isolation because then that somewhere does not convey the right picture," he said.

Tensions flared between India and Canada after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau alleged that Indian agents could likely have been involved in the killing of Nijjar on his country's soil. India had designated Nijjar as a terrorist in 2020.

India rejected the allegations as "absurd" and "motivated" and expelled a senior Canadian diplomat in a tit-for-tat move to Ottawa's expulsion of an Indian official over the case. India also suspended its visa services in Canada following the allegations.

Freedom of speech

In an apparent reference to Trudeau's allegations, Jaishankar said that India does not need lessons on freedom of speech from others, adding that freedom of expression should not extend to incitement of violence.

“We are a democracy. We don't need to learn from other people what freedom of speech is about. But we can tell people this, we don't think freedom of speech extends to incitement of violence. That to us, is the misuse of freedom.”

'Our diplomats intimidated in Canada'

The EAM also added that India's diplomatic missions and personnel have been consistently and continuously intimidated in Canada to a point where it is not safe for them to carry on with their work.

"Obviously the fact that we've had to temporarily suspend our visa operations, it's not something we would've liked to do. It is just that they made it very difficult for us to operate those services, Jaishankar said.

He further asked how other countries would react if they were in India's position. “How would you react if you were in my shoes? If it was your diplomats, your embassy, your people, what would be your reaction?” We have taken a very reasonable stance, he added.

On India-US-Canada ties

Jaishankar requested the US to look at India's point of view also as it shares good relations with both Ottawa and New Delhi. Jaishankar confirmed earlier he had spoken to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and the US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan about Canadian allegations. "We're very concerned about the allegations that have been raised by Canada, by Prime Minister Trudeau," Blinken said, adding that the US has urged India to cooperate with the probe.

“When Americans look at Canada, they see something. When we in India look at Canada, we see something else and that is part of the problem,” Jaishankar said. The EAM also raised with the US concerns over pro-Khalistan supporters trying to set fire to the consulate in San Francisco in July.

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