#India-Canada: In US, S Jaishankar's Message On ‘Freedom Of Speech’, ‘Deadlock’ With Canada Amid Nijjar Killing Row


External affairs minister S Jaishankar, referring to violence and intimidation against Indian diplomats and missions, said the ongoing situation in Canada should not be regarded as normal, and made it clear that India does not require lessons from others on the concept of freedom of speech.

In July, a group of pro-Khalistan supporters allegedly attempted to set fire to the Consulate in San Francisco. There was no major damage nor any injuries and police were carrying out an investigation into the incident.

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On September 18, Trudeau made a stunning allegation that the Indian government was possibly involved in the killing of Khalistani terrorist Hardeep Singh Nijjar. India, however, has outrightly rejected the claims, calling it “absurd” and “motivated”.

Jaishankar, who is on a US visit, was addressing a press conference in Washington DC on Friday.

What Jaishankar said on India-Canada diplomatic row:

On pro-Khalistan protests: In an apparent reference to Canada, Jaishankar said freedom of expression should not extend to incitement of violence.

“…I flagged here (in the US), and I flagged this to the Canadians as well. 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 to violence. That to us, is the misuse of freedom, that’s not defence of freedom”.

Earlier this month, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the issue of pro-Khalistani protests in his country came up during his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and asserted that Canada will work on preventing violence and push back against hatred.

He, however, said, “Canada will always defend freedom of expression, freedom of conscience, and freedom of peaceful protest and it is extremely important to us... at the same time we are always there to prevent violence and to push back against hatred.”

Jaishankar also asked how other countries would react if they were in India's position, with their diplomats, embassies, and citizens facing intimidation.

“How would you react if you were in my shoes? If it was your diplomats, your embassy, your people, what would be your reaction?” he added.

“Yes, of course, we raised, it. What is the status…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. When we look at the world, there are areas we have convergences, and intersections of interest where we work very closely together, we are doing all of that,” Jaishankar said.

He added, “Look, 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”.

On intimidation against Indian diplomats: Jaishankar questioned whether the reaction would have been the same if a similar situation had occurred in any other country, adding that the situation in Canada should not be normalised.

“...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 have had our consulates…violence in front of them. Individuals have been targeted and intimidated. There are posters put up about people," he said.

“So tell me, do you consider this normal? Okay, this is about this…if this had happened to any other country, how would they react to it? I think it is a reasonable question to ask,” the EAM added.

On the current ‘deadlock’ with Canada: Jaishankar said the current situation can’t be termed a “deadlock” and clarified that the Indian government is open to looking at any specific and relevant thing shared by the Canadian side in connection with the issue.

“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," he said at the press conference.

(With inputs from agencies)


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