Underlining that there is a “climate of violence and an atmosphere of intimidation” in Canada, External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar on Friday (September 29) said that what is happening in Justin Trudeau-led country should not be “normalised” while stressing that necessity of calling out what is taking place in the nation.
Jaishankar said what India has opted for is a “very reasonable stance” on the Canada issue and flagged the intimidation of the Indian missions in Canada.
The EAM is in the US on a nine-day visit where he addressed the UN General Assembly session and also met secretary of state Antony Blinken.
Notably, Trudeau, while addressing the Canadian Parliament last week, alleged that Indian agents were involved in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. Trudeau claimed Ottawa has "credible inputs" about New Delhi's involvement in the killing.
"...Our point is that there is today a climate of violence, an atmosphere of intimidation...Just think about it. We have had smoke bombs thrown at the mission. We've had our consulates, violence in front of them. Individuals have been targeted and intimidated. There are posters put up about people. So tell me, do you consider this normal?... If this had happened to any other country, how would they react to it?... Let's not normalize what is happening in Canada...So I think it's necessary to call out what is happening there and our point is this: There may be an individual incident. Yes, if there is an incident and there is an investigation and there are allegations you know there are processes involved in it. I mean nobody is disputing that..." Jaishankar said at a press conference in Washington DC.
Jaishankar talks about American perspective of Canada
The EAM said that the US and India sees two different things when they look at Canada and added that he suspected if the Americans noticed that there are people in Canada who are “advocating violence, separatism”.
“No incident is isolated and no incident is the totality. There is a context for everything and there are multiple problems out there...But there is a larger issue...I think the larger issue should be flagged...In India, it will not come as a surprise to anybody if you tell them that there are people in Canada who are advocating violence, separatism...All Indians notice, I suspected very few Americans notice...When Americans look at Canada, they see something, when we in India look at Canada, we see something else and that's a part of the problem…” he said.
“What we have taken is a very reasonable stance...When was the last time that any of our missions was intimidated to a point where it could not continue with its normal functioning?...If someone says this could happen in a G7 country, in a Commonwealth country, it gives you a lot to think about,” the EAM added.
Stating that he is aware of US’ reaction on the ongoing India-Canada row, Jaishankar said that both sides have exchanged each other’s views on the matter.
“I saw what the Americans have said, and hopefully, the Americans have seen what I have said. I think both of us have articulated our respective views…so I really don’t know, beyond that, what else I can add," he said.
He said that the present environment in Canada is of “pressure on our Embassies” where violence is being propagated against them. He asked if it was possible to carry out the work of visa in such an atmosphere.
Notably, the Indian government had suspended new visas for Canadians and asked Ottawa to reduce its diplomatic presence in the country.
“Right now there is such an environment where there is a kind of pressure on our Embassies, our High Commissioners and our Consulates. Violence is being propagated against them...How can they carry out the work of visa in such an environment?... This is a matter of law and order. Under the Vienna Convention, it is the responsibility of every country to provide security to its embassy and those working in the embassy. Don't make it bilateral. This environment is not in India...Social media postings, protests and threats are happening in Canada. They (the Canadian government) should take action there,” he said.
“My understanding is that the word used by the Canadians is allegation...I have already answered it...We've always said that look if there is information let us know...It's not that our doors are shut to looking at something. If there is a requirement for us to look at something, we are open to looking at it. But, I then expect somewhere...something for me to look at,” he added.
Jaishankar said that India is a democracy and does not need to learn about freedom of speech from other countries while stressing that the freedom does not extend to “incitement to violence”.
“It's an ongoing conversation...Yes, I did spend some time on it...Yes, we discussed other things...Our relationship has many dimensions. Many areas of cooperation...I want to be fair. If something is discussed, I am transparent about it. I have no problem saying yes we discussed it. I don't want you to think that in the India-US relationship, there is only one issue. I would say yes, it's an ongoing conversation...We are a democracy. We don't need to learn from other people what freedom of speech is about...We don't think freedom of speech extends to incitement to violence. That to us, is the misuse of freedom...How would you react if you were in my shoes? If it was your diplomats, your embassy, your people, what would be your reaction?"
Message to the Sikh community
Giving a message to the Sikh community, the EAM said that the Narendra Modi government has paid attention to the community in the last 10 years and noted that the ongoing row with Canada is not the “representative issue of the entire community”.
“Everyone is aware of the amount of attention that the Modi government has paid to the issues of the Sikh community in the last 10 years and the suggestions it has made. I do not believe that the discussions that are taking place right now are the representative issues of the entire community (Sikhs)...Those who talk about terrorism, the separatist people...whose arguments involve violence...This is a small minority...Don't take this as a matter for the entire community,” Jaishankar said.
The EAM reflected on the India-Canada diplomatic row and said that India is open to looking at anything relevant and specifics provided by Canada on the issue of killing of Nijjar. He pointed out to the issue of “permissiveness in regard to terrorism” in Canada.
“Well, I don't know if I would use the term deadlock...The issue is as follows: The Canadians have made some allegations. We have pointed out to them that this is not the Government of India's policy and if they are prepared to share with us specifics and anything relevant, we are also open to looking at it. So in that sense, that's where the matter stands but what we do not want to see is an incident treated in isolation because then that somewhere does not convey the right picture. The fact is that we have had an ongoing problem with Canada and the Canadian government for some years now. And the ongoing problem really revolves around the permissiveness in regard to terrorism, extremism and violence. This permissiveness is also reflected in the fact that some important extradition requests have not been responded to from their side in the fact that there are individuals and organizations who are clearly involved with violence and illegal activities in India, who themselves declared. I mean it is not a secret,” he said.
“They continue to carry on with their activities in Canada and most important, the fact that our diplomatic missions and our diplomatic personnel have been consistently and continuously intimidated in Canada...The fact that we have had to temporarily suspend our visa operations...It is just that they made it very difficult for us to operate those services..." Jaishankar added.
(With ANI inputs)